San Pedro Creek Culture Park: Hideous drainage ditch now inviting urban space

In this place of herons where the grasses sway in starlight I have flowed since the dawn of evermore.

John Phillip Santos, historical text carved in limestone

The stretch of San Pedro Creek between the tunnel inlet at I-35 and Houston Street beside a new office tower climbing toward the sky might only be a little more than four blocks long, but the transformation from drainage ditch to park seems miraculous to me.

Yes, I watched the earlier magic worked on the Museum and Mission Reaches of the San Antonio River Improvements Project, but there was absolutely nothing natural-creek-like remaining following decades of flood-control projects in this neighborhood.

All that remained was a ditch. And then there was a dream. San Pedro Creek Culture Park.

Some dismiss projects like these as “legacy projects” fluffing up politicians’ egos with taxpayers’ dollars. Politically charged, the design process for a project this complex is rarely perfect. There are budget cuts, and still the enormous projects tend to run over-budget.

But, as with the original Paseo del Rio project, they can prove visionary. Development along the Museum Reach demonstrates how quickly highly blemished urban corridors become desirable.

While flood-control is an underlying purpose of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, the incorporation of site-specific art reflective of the city’s history and culture gives the new pedestrian passageway a distinctive San Antonio feel.

Bexar County is the primary funder of San Pedro Creek Culture Park, and the San Antonio River Authority is project manager.

looking south from Houston Street

Work is underway on the next phase heading southward from Houston Street. As you can see from the photo, this narrow stretch probably is even more challenging.

In my mind, the photos above illustrate that the complications and difficulties encountered along the way are so worth it. Those involved are leaving a legacy that will enrich the quality of urban life for generations to come. Looking forward to walking the next phase and those to come.

Temporary art installations illuminate downtown storefronts

Had difficulty deciding whether to tamper with the whimsical excitement of encountering unexpected illuminated art in vacant storefronts. To tour or not to tour?

But the Mister gamely rushed home in his reverse-commute so we could arrive at the 5:30 start time for the opening walk of Cut and Paste, a continuation of Public Art San Antonio’s X Marks the Art series of public art installations. And then we waited. And waited. We considered just walking on our own, but, given the number of people at the weeknight gathering competing with Mardi Gras celebrations, bailing out seemed rude. In defense of PASA, this probably was the planned “reception” time, we just would have preferred to have not rushed and, instead, to have arrived at 6:15.

Finally, 45 minutes later, the art walk got under way.

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Rather than rely on random chance encounters, we were happy we waited for the walk because of the opportunity to hear several of the artists explain the rationale behind their work. As curator, Cruz Ortiz did a spectacular job of assembling a dynamic group of installations.

Visit the website, and follow the X’s around downtown. The displays will be up through May. Or go on the next after-work tour, which actually is billed as lasting an hour so should begin right at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12, on the riverside plaza, Argo Plaza, at 175 East Houston Street.