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Old Posted Nov 14, 2007, 7:25 AM
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sirkingwilliam sirkingwilliam is online now
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Planning sessions set for Walzem Road area

Web Posted: 11/13/2007 11:09 PM CST

Elaine Ayo
Express-News

City staff from San Antonio and Windcrest heard from urban planner Andres Duany on Tuesday about their role in the coming planning charrette for two properties in the Walzem Road area.

"(Plans) are normally done in private off in a backroom, but then you get it wrong and make everybody angry to boot," Duany said.

A leader in the New Urbanism movement, Duany and Miami-based Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. will oversee planning sessions that will culminate with a concept for 137 acres along Eisenhauer Road on the southern edge of Windcrest and 166 acres between Walzem Road and Eisenhauer in San Antonio.

"My goal is to create a sustainable neighborhood," said Gary Cain of the Windcrest Economic Development Corp., which hired Duany to plan the developments. New Urbanism promotes pedestrian-friendly communities where business and residential uses are mixed.

In urban planning, a charrette brings together all stakeholders in the new development over a short time for input in the final design. Duany and his staff hope to include city staff from Windcrest and San Antonio, area business owners and residents in the process.

Although it involves consulting with public officials, the process doesn't bypass the regular permitting process, Duany said.

"The reason I thought the project was interesting was it contained so many typical situations," Duany said of the once-vibrant Walzem Road corridor, which slowly declined as retailers left Windsor Park Mall.

Paid for by the private Windcrest Economic Development Corp., the developments are another cog in a multimillion-dollar revitalization plan for the Walzem Road corridor, which will also bring Rackspace Managed Hosting into Windcrest as the new tenant for the old mall site.

"We talked about six years ago about what was happening on the Northeast Side, and, frankly, nothing was happening," Windcrest Mayor Jack Leonhardt said.

The development corporation's Cain said that after meeting several times with Leonhardt and his own brother, City Manager Ronnie Cain, to discuss the decline of Windsor Park Mall, the three realized that they would need to secure a tenant to go forward and began looking into how to acquire the mall.

Windcrest made a deal with San Antonio to take over 229 acres of the city in exchange for a portion of sales and property tax revenues for the next 30 years.

Windcrest Economic Development Corp. is looking into hiring another planner to design a concept for the rest of the corridor between the two developments Duany's firm is designing, said Ray Watson, executive director of the Windcrest company.

"It's innovative in that it's something not seen in San Antonio today," Watson said of Cain's idea for the area.

The charrette is scheduled for Dec. 4 to 10, with a meeting at which residents can offer their opinions set for Dec. 7. A final schedule and Web site for the charrette are expected within a few weeks, said Ben Brown, spokesman for Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co.
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