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  #1  
Old Posted Dec 6, 2006, 4:48 AM
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River North- San Antonio

David Hendricks: Approval of taxing area could help remake part of downtown

San Antonio Express-News

Dec. 14 could be a watershed day for downtown San Antonio.

That is when the City Council is slated to vote on a 194-acre taxing area covering the northeast sector of the central business district. Future increased property tax revenues would finance dressing up the area — called River North — so it can draw more private investments for housing, retail and offices.

The decision is scheduled for Dec. 14 on purpose. The council wants to lock in 2006 property assessments totaling nearly $125 million so future increases will count toward the project.

The 25-year tax increment-financing proposal envisions an increase in property valuations zooming to $1.2 billion by 2031, yielding about $67 million for physical improvements. The fund would finance utility line burial and street improvements, especially along the main thoroughfares of Broadway and Avenue B, said David Garza, city Neighborhood Action director.

The plan envisions that private investments will add a half-million square feet of office space, a quarter-million square feet of retail space and 5,500 or more residential units with a possible average of two people per unit.

Another 7,000 parking spaces could be built, although multilevel garages would be encouraged instead of flat lots.


The $67 million worth of improvements would be in addition to a $194 million extension of the River Walk, including the section between Lexington Street and the San Antonio Museum of Art on Jones Avenue.

The two-year River Walk extension project, which breaks ground in March, will be paid from city, county and federal funds. The extended River Walk would provide a park dividing the district.

The primary purpose of the tax district is to accelerate housing in an underdeveloped area as an alternative to further sprawl on the city's outskirts, said Andrés Andújar, group executive officer of the architectural firm 3D/International.

He probably has worked more on behalf of River North than anyone else. Since 2005, Andújar has made about 70 presentations on the project to businesses, agencies and organizations.

So far, only the city proposes a tax district. But other taxing entities, including Bexar County, the Alamo Community College District and the San Antonio River Authority, could create their own arrangements to add funds for improvements.

If the tax district is approved, a board of public and private sector representatives would be established to oversee all expenditures except those for river improvements.

The Downtown Alliance San Antonio plans to raise private funds for an urban planning firm to write a block-by-block master plan, said Ben Brewer, alliance president.

The proposed River North boundary is zoned mostly light industrial, but it already has some impressive investments. AT&T Corp. occupies two office towers there, built initially by Valero Energy Corp. KLRN and KSAT operate television stations, and the district includes most of the San Antonio Express-News complex.

The area also features a Cadillac dealership, several landmark churches, additional park space at Jones and Broadway, and a beautiful Southern plantation-style house that serves as a Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

One street enhancement that has been widely discussed is narrowing Broadway to four from seven lanes to allow for wider sidewalks, trees and a boulevard.

That could be accomplished, Andújar said, and still allow Broadway to accommodate the annual Fiesta parades.

The City Council's choice Dec. 14 boils down to this: Keep the district's money flowing into the general fund or divert enough revenues to dramatically increase property values over 25 years in an underdeveloped area.

Considering that urban sprawl is much more expensive for the city to serve with fire, police and other city services, City Hall might actually save money by opening the central business district to condominiums and apartments.

River North would result in a better-balanced, healthier city.
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Old Posted Dec 6, 2006, 5:33 AM
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This is really good news.
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  #3  
Old Posted Dec 6, 2006, 6:57 AM
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Look for city council to approve the River North project.
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Old Posted Dec 6, 2006, 4:50 PM
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I agree, i remember hearing about River North a good while back. They said it will take time and that it has. That area has so much potential. There are quite a handful of empty lots and buildings that can be used for a vareity of things. Such a close location to downtown, walking is not all that bad, i have done it many times. Would be nice to see some height/density in this area.
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Old Posted Dec 6, 2006, 4:59 PM
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Something must be done to enhance the look of Broadway; all those abandoned auto dealerships and parking lots look really shitty. If it wasn't for the downtown skyline in the distance one could say it kind of looks like a ghosttown.
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Old Posted Dec 9, 2006, 4:12 AM
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I still think they should turn Broadway into the broadway other cities have-- a nice long strip with theatres and condos and nice apartments.
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Old Posted Dec 16, 2006, 6:58 PM
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So...according to this article, they're taking the taxes from the zone and making sure it is reinvested in the neighborhood.

Also, that's a great plan for Broadway, highly needed.
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  #8  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2006, 7:20 PM
Asobi Seksu Asobi Seksu is offline
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I think plans call for a really nice arts district around SAMA.
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  #9  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2006, 7:22 PM
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Tax district aims to boost area north of downtown

Guillermo X. Garcia EXPRESS-NEWS STAFF WRITER

Publication Date : December 15, 2006

Hoping to attract more residents to the heart of San Antonio, the City Council approved a new taxing district Thursday designed to spur commercial and residential development in a 56-block area immediately north of downtown.
The tax increment reinvestment zone -- centered generally along Broadway and nestled near the intersection of Interstate 35, I-37 and U.S. 281 -- would grant tax incentives to spur development of a pedestrian-friendly residential area that would significantly increase the area's population and property values.

Called River North, the project, in conjunction with the planned northern extension of the River Walk, would redevelop underutilized or empty commercial buildings and stimulate construction of moderate and higher-end housing in what one proponent called a model for inner city-revitalization.

The project is expected to boost property values in the 194-acre site from the current $125 million to more than $1.2 billion, according to city Economic Development Department projections.

The city would benefit by collecting taxes on property whose value would be significantly higher.

Fewer than 700 people currently reside within the district, but up to 2,250 would live in low- and mid-rise buildings within five years, and 9,000 new residents would call the area home within 20 years, according to department projections.

The plan calls for the city to eventually invest up to $91 million in the project, said Housing and Neighborhood Services director David Garza. But Thursday's unanimous council vote didn't commit the city to spend any money, he noted.

That investment would come after financing agreements are negotiated with commercial and corporate developers to build or locate in the area, Garza said.

He estimated those agreements -- generally in the form of property tax breaks -- would be finalized in 2007. Property taxes paid by businesses already in the zone, including the San Antonio Express-News, would go into the reinvestment zone and not into the city's general fund.

Mayor Phil Hardberger warned that private entities must commit to the project for the plan to succeed.

"It is an exciting project ... that should be a Renaissance for the area, and includes a significant expansion of the River Walk," Hardberger said. "But I expect property owners and businesses that will benefit to contribute to this project. The city can stimulate, but for this to succeed, I fully expect private citizens and corporations to be involved, to make this a true partnership."

Garza, in briefing the council, said the city's initial investment of $67.5 million would pay for streets, sidewalks, drainage and utilities, in addition to the $194 million the city already has committed to extend the River Walk, including sections between Lexington Street and the San Antonio Museum of Art.

The River Walk extension, which breaks ground in March and will take two years to complete, will be paid by a combination of city, county and federal funds.

Over the 25-year life of the tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ, Garza envisioned the construction of 6,000 housing units, including 200 affordable units run by the San Antonio Housing Authority; 150 hotel rooms; 700,000 square feet of office and 250,000 square feet of retail space and 7,250 parking spaces.

The economic development agency estimated the zone's commercial impact at $246 million a year from 155 new businesses that would create almost 1,700 new jobs paying annual salaries of $47 million.

"We are trying for a positive impact for downtown San Antonio," said Andres Andujar of the 3D/International architectural firm. "This would be an urbanscape that would not be a tourist tract, it would be for us, San Antonians."

He said the pedestrian-friendly area would include bike path lanes, and he envisioned grocery stores and shopping areas "that would mean residents could shop and walk to their work downtown."

He called the concept far preferable to the urban sprawl under way in the northern and northwestern parts of the city.

"Just don't make this a boxed downtown like Baltimore or Seattle," Councilwoman Elena Guajardo said. "Make it look and feel like San Antonio."

River North

56 blocks covering 194 acres, in City Council District 1

Estimated construction:

6000 Residential units

150 Hotel rooms

700,000 Square feet of office space

250,000 Square feet of retail space

7,250 Parking places

$67.5 million Infrastructure (streets, sidewalks, drainage, utilities).

Source: City of San Antonio

ggarcia@express-news.net
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Old Posted Dec 16, 2006, 7:55 PM
Asobi Seksu Asobi Seksu is offline
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Here are some past articles on River North. It should be noted that RIver North was first proposed in August of 2005. Since then it has taken off like a rocket shooting outer space.

http://www.mysanantonio.com/business....1746a550.html

Quote:
Massive riverfront renewal idea proposed

Web Posted: 08/25/2005 12:00 AM CDT

Adolfo Pesquera
Express-News Business Writer

The head of a prominent architectural firm Wednesday proposed a downtown urban revitalization project on the scale of HemisFair Park.

Andres Andujar, head of 3D/I, the firm that designed Hotel Valencia, surprised a group of real estate professionals during a lunchtime speech by proposing a special tax use district for a 56-acre area straddling the San Antonio River north of McCullough Avenue.

Although the concept hasn't been presented to the City Council or Commissioners Court — the two bodies that would need to approve it — it does have the support of the Downtown Alliance and the council member who represents the area.

Councilman Roger O. Flores of District 1 described Andujar, who said he'll make a formal proposal in September, as a champion of downtown development.

Andujar's most prominent role to date has been in assisting Federal Realty Investment Trust in the $150 million revitalization of Houston Street.

Flores called Andujar's new concept fantastic, adding that he has already initiated discussions with city staff members.

"This is exactly what TIFs (tax increment financing) have been designed for — inner-city revitalization," Flores said. "This is textbook in terms of what kind of tool needs to be used to reinvigorate that area."

Warehouses, old garages and former car dealerships dominate the area now.

Andujar's concept calls for predominantly high-end residential development on or near the river. There would be about 4,000 units of rentals and condominiums with retail shops and offices along Broadway.

The city plans to eventually extend the River Walk north to Brackenridge Park. But unless the streets neighboring that section of the river are modernized, Andujar argued Wednesday, development will come slowly.

The 25-block area he has named River North is bordered by McCullough, St. Mary's Street, Interstate 35 and Broadway. Current city and county property taxes for the area total $1.3 million per year.

"That is a shame, for 56 acres of downtown real estate," Andujar said. "What I propose is an incentive to increase that to $30 million a year."

By reinvesting the tax revenue and augmenting it, possibly by attracting grants or private investment, the city could modernize the infrastructure, Andujar said, suggesting turning Broadway, St. Mary's and Avenue B into boulevards with tree-lined medians.

The Real Estate Council has not considered endorsing the concept, as Andujar has not asked for its support, said Phil Crane, the council's president-elect.

The council traditionally does not endorse individual projects but does consider those with broader economic impact. Crane noted, for instance, that the council endorsed the PGA Tour golf resort.

Speaking as principal of Providence Commercial Real Estate, Crane added: "I love the idea. To take areas that are underdeveloped in today's market and redevelop them, I think is wonderful."

Crane cautioned that Andujar is dreaming big, and revitalization probably would require numerous developers and a huge assemblage of land from many owners.

The concept far surpasses recent redevelopment projects such as the Houston Street renaissance and the razing and reconstruction of Victoria Courts.

Andujar said redevelopment would make best use of the district's two most distinctive assets — the river and the San Antonio Museum of Art. He suggested a park-plaza in front of the museum that would stretch almost three blocks and include a marketplace of galleries, boutiques and cafés.
http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/met...o.2ea2f48.html

Quote:
Andujar steers interest to River North project
San Antonio Business Journal - March 31, 2006
by Sandra Lowe Sanchez

For more than six months, Andres Andujar, managing partner of the architectural firm 3D/International's San Antonio office, has been on the speaking circuit addressing various real estate and urban planning industry organizations -- all in effort to gain support for an idea that he believes would transform a section of San Antonio north of downtown.

Speaking to the local chapter of the American Planning Association recently, he assured the audience that his advocacy for the area he has dubbed "River North" was purely from a perspective of concerned citizen and planner who sees an opportunity to take a largely low-tax-base industrial area and transform it into an highly desirable place to live.

"I have no client, I own no property here, so I'm clean," he told the group of planners, which included the city's director of planning, Emil Moncivais. "I do have an interest and that is I'd like to live in a place like this."

Andujar's proposal calls for creating a tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) in the 26-block area bordered by Interstate Highway 35, Broadway Street, St. Mary's Street and McCullough Avenue. Along a portion of Broadway, the district would encourage development on both sides of the street.

With a tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ), certain public improvements are paid for by the difference in the current assessed value of the property and the hikes in property taxes resulting from development that follows. This is known as tax increment financing, or TIF.
Idea flows

For his part, Andujar says the idea for River North came to him last April after hearing about the planned improvements to the section of the San Antonio River north of downtown to Brackenridge Park, a project called Museum Reach. A month earlier he and his family had traveled to Spain and Italy, and he says he was impressed with an area in Barcelona called La Rambla.

The vision for an area that could be created with La Rambla as a model began to develop after he heard about the $58 million that will be spent on planned Museum Reach improvements to the river -- a project which is expected to be completed by 2009. The improvement will correct a 100-year flood plain. In addition, the San Antonio River Foundation is raising $10 million from the private sector for further improvements, including the development of a linear park.

"Where there's public investment, the private sector will follow," he told the group of planning professionals.

Add to that Silver Ventures' redevelopment of the former Pearl Brewery site, and Andujar believes the 56-acre River North represents an opportunity in urban planning. Its current zoning allows for warehousing and light manufacturing, such as assembly. But Andujar began imagining a place with green spaces, barbecue pits, and mid-rise residential buildings.

"You have a linear park in the middle of the district," he explains. "You have a light industrial zoned area that you can heroically downgrade to a mixed-use zoning that allows residential ... and because (of the river improvements), development is going to happen anyway," he explains. "My argument is let's not just let it happen. Let's frame our vision. Let's dream the big dream of a neighborhood where we all would be happy to live in, and it's not by cutting trees north of Stone Oak but by taking something that's already built .... and we're going to re-use an area."

Project develops

For several years running, 3D/I has taken on some community projects. One year it planted a tree, replacing one that had been lost in one of the city's recent floods. Another year, the staff painted a bridge. This year, Andujar and his staff decided developing a proposal for River North would be its community contribution.

Last summer, he and 3D/I architect Milton Babbitt developed sketches for the project. An intern with the firm advanced their work and conducted research on the area, including who the property owners are. What Andujar learned is that the property value assessment for the area totaled $43 million and produced $1.3 million in property taxes -- $408,000 of which was attributable to the city and Bexar County. What resulted is a PowerPoint presentation Andujar has been using to accompany his speeches in an effort to gain support for the idea.

Andujar's financial model for the district calls for a mixed-use neighborhood with some offices on Broadway and retail along that street, as well as side streets that would serve the increased residential population that the area would eventually draw.

Indeed, with its proximity just north of downtown, Andujar expects that the area could sustain a total of 4,167 new residential units -- or 3,749,990 square feet of new residential living space. Besides the residential development, the area would bring 580,000 square feet of retail space and 320,000 square feet of office space. The total assessed value could increase to $982 million in a matter of 20 years. The additional tax revenue generated by the development to support the TIF in the 20th year would be $8.8 million -- not to mention the additional revenue that would result in the interim years.

According to Andujar's proposal, Broadway would be widened and traffic separated by a median. New wider sidewalks would be added. With 26 blocks impacted, street and sidewalk repairs alone could total $55 million. Another $45 million or so would address infrastructure, including burying overhead utility lines and upgrading or creating water and sewer systems. In addition, Andujar suggests that an entryway of sorts identifying the area as River North could be built, possibly extending the district one block south.
TIFs and TIRZs

Every year, the Neighborhood Action Department accepts applications for TIRZs and their accompanying TIF proposals from developers. The department makes recommendations to the City Council, which makes the final decision on whether to accept an application. In the cases where the financing mechanisms are approved, a board of representatives from the taxing entities and the developer is created. This board authorizes payment of funds collected by the TIRZ.

Currently, city officials confirm, there are 19 TIRZs overseen by the city. They include Federal Realty Investment Trust's 13-year Houston Street TIRZ, which has been in existence since 2000.

David Garza, director of the Neighborhood Action Department, says that so far, the Houston Street TIRZ has collected $2.1 million in additional tax revenue due to new development. By comparison, Federal Realty's debt service on its investment in the public portion of the project to date totals $10.3 million. Federal Realty purchased and renovated 10 buildings, bringing in development that includes the Palm Restaurant and the five-star boutique Hotel Valencia.

Ramiro Cavazos, director of economic development for the city of San Antonio, says in his opinion TIRZs have not been as successful in San Antonio as in other cities.

"You need to have the right private-sector investment partner," he says. In some cases, developers failed to invest money for infrastructure development upfront, and values did not increase.

Federal Realty's case, he says, "has worked moderately well," but recent development on Houston Street, as well as interest in further hotel development in the TIRZ, appears to hold out the promise of greater success.

Cavazos, who has heard Andujar's presentation, is cautiously optimistic about the River North proposal. "I think it's a wonderful project with great potential," he says. "What Andres is proposing will need strong investment upfront," as well as cooperation from various parties, including property owners.

Andujar concurs that upfront investment is needed, and he hopes to convince city officials that this TIRZ should be city-driven, rather than developer-driven. With a city-led TIRZ, the city puts in the improvements and pays itself back from the proceeds of the TIF.

"The municipality has the public benefit in mind, versus the developer that has only their project in mind," he explains of the benefit, pointing to the Cotswald District in Houston as an example. The $62 million Cotswald Project involved street improvements in a 90-block area in Houston's northern sector of downtown. The project was undertaken by Houston Downtown Management District under contract for the City of Houston.

How does Andujar plan to win support from the City of San Antonio for the project? "I keep on talking to the decision makers," he says.

Meanwhile, he adds, he has asked a local attorney to draw up a proposal on how a city-led TIF would work.
Downtown support

With or without the TIF, city planning director Moncivais says he appreciates the River North idea and the work that went into developing it.

"It's going to create a real quality of life environment that people can relate to over time," he says.

He suggests that some of the issues which must still be addressed include determining market demand for the project, as well as consideration of zoning changes that can be made. Such projects need a champion, he adds.

Andujar too, believes a champion is needed, and has approached the Downtown Alliance to take on the project. A board member of the Downtown Alliance, Andujar says he would expect to be active in its support, but is looking to take the project outside of 3D/I.

"3D/I is not in the business of creating districts," he says. "We're in the business of design and project management."

Ben Brewer, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, agrees that an organization could better shepherd the proposal along. The organization's board has "conceptually approved" taking on the project, he adds, and has formed a task force to examine the possibility of creating a community development corporation that could assist in the creation of the River North TIF.

"I think the board is amenable to taking this on," he says.

Andujar says such a move by Downtown Alliance would give the project more clout as the proposal hits the political scene.

"Who am I?" he quips. "I'm just a guy with a PowerPoint and I'm showing it around town."
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  #11  
Old Posted Dec 16, 2006, 11:21 PM
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This is definently something we've needed downtown for a while and the article is right it will be the first "non-touristy" part of downtown.

It looks to me like they haven't actually made any tax breaks yet. They're going to work with each individual developer about how to organize the tax breaks. That might not be fair, it might be better to give everybody the same deal.
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Old Posted Dec 16, 2006, 11:48 PM
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No, it's a TIRZ, meaning everyone (developers) is entitled to the tax breaks. I think how much and how little is determined on the size and scope of each development.
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Old Posted Dec 17, 2006, 8:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asobi Seksu View Post
"Just don't make this a boxed downtown like Baltimore or Seattle," Councilwoman Elena Guajardo said. "Make it look and feel like San Antonio."

River North

56 blocks covering 194 acres, in City Council District 1

Estimated construction:

6000 Residential units

150 Hotel rooms

700,000 Square feet of office space

250,000 Square feet of retail space

7,250 Parking places (multilevel)

$67.5 million Infrastructure (streets, sidewalks, drainage, utilities).

Source: City of San Antonio

ggarcia@express-news.net

this sums it up...Basically don't expect anything over 10 stories. 10 stories probably being the tallest and being a parking garage. We can't be "boxy like seattle or baltimore" This sucks in terms of making the skyline better I don't think this project is going to contribute at all.
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Old Posted Dec 17, 2006, 5:13 PM
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Does anyone know if the Riverwalk is limited to any height restrictions?
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Old Posted Dec 17, 2006, 6:33 PM
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well luckily it's not in Guajardo's district so she has little say. I really envision this area becoming San Antonio's Victory, if you are familar with the Dallas development with the same name.
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Old Posted Dec 17, 2006, 6:45 PM
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Taking into consideration the space for roads, sidewalks, and green space the actual area available should be much less than 194 acres. I would guess some where between 70 to 85 acres would be available for construction. The number of floors needed to pack 6000 residential units, along with the other proposals, into an area that small would require much greater heights. If you look at the number of hotel rooms, 150, you can immediately begin to question some of the numbers. Maybe, the plan is to have only one hotel.
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Old Posted Dec 17, 2006, 7:03 PM
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Does anyone have the pictures of the boundaries of River North?
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Old Posted Dec 17, 2006, 10:04 PM
Asobi Seksu Asobi Seksu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 21bl0wed View Post
this sums it up...Basically don't expect anything over 10 stories. 10 stories probably being the tallest and being a parking garage. We can't be "boxy like seattle or baltimore" This sucks in terms of making the skyline better I don't think this project is going to contribute at all.
First off, that's her "opinion" on how River North should look. She never said it can't have height, just not look generic. Also, I watched the council meeting on channel 20 and I listened to her say that and I don't believe she ever said "downtown." She was only talking about River North and for the developments in River North not to be boxy as if it were any other development in any other city (she used Seattle and Baltimore).

Second, where do you get the 10 story number? There is no set height for developments as of now, and unless there is one put in place a developer could build as big as they wanted to. However, they'd have to build something mixed-use. Andres Andujar who helped visualizes River North as well as champion its birth has labeled this a mid-rise area, but that's his vision. Unless its put into zoning height that all developments be mid-rise or smaller, height enthusiasts shouldn't have anything to worry about.

Third and last, who cares of its all mid-rise. If what expected happens, this will be something beyond words. An urban and dense residential district with the Riverwalk smack in the middle, something for San Antonian’s and not tourists directly inside the downtown area. We've never had that but for some reason because you feel there won't be any height in future projects so you give River North a thumb down. My friend, if skyscrapers are what keep you functioning in life I suggest you move to Las Vegas or Miami.

I can’t tell you how extremely thrilled I am about River North.
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Old Posted Dec 17, 2006, 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by coddat View Post
well luckily it's not in Guajardo's district so she has little say. I really envision this area becoming San Antonio's Victory, if you are familar with the Dallas development with the same name.
I don't. Victory is a nice development, but its a suburban development built in a urban setting.

River North has a street grid, it has the River Walk right in the middle. It has industrial buildings one could turn into housing or offices. Sure will a lot of building be torn down so a developer can build something. But there are tons of parking lots that will also be built on.

I really don't think you can compare what River North will become.
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Old Posted Dec 17, 2006, 10:27 PM
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Hopfully city leaders will allow for taller buildings there. It's far enough away from the Tower of the Americas that most buildings there, really no matter how tall they'd be, wouldn't block views from the Tower of the Americas. And of course they'd be away from the Alamo and historical areas of downtown. Then it'd just be a matter of figuring out what heights to allow around the riverwalk regarding shadows. Still, there's a lot of developeable land on the other side of downtown to build tall towers on, too. I say allow taller buildings there.
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