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Old Posted May 9, 2007, 9:39 PM
SAguy SAguy is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2005
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River improvement benefits to reach city's tourism biz

Editor's Note: The San Antonio River Improvements Project is expected to significantly benefit the city's tourism industry. Louis Rowe, chairman of the San Antonio River Authority, recently answered some questions for the Business Journal about the project.

What is the San Antonio River Improvements Project?

The San Antonio River Improvements Project (SARIP) is a $216.6 million investment by the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the San Antonio River Foundation in flood control, amenities, ecosystem restoration and recreational improvements. The San Antonio River Authority (SARA) will provide project and technical management, as well as overall project coordination between the project partners.

The Museum Reach includes the creation of an urban linear park that will link major cultural institutions such as the Witte Museum, San Antonio Museum of Art and Brackenridge Park. The Museum Reach Urban Segment, from Lexington Avenue to Josephine Street, includes a lock and dam near Brooklyn Avenue, overlooks, boat landings, a safe harbor, walkways, stairs, accessible ramps, lighting, signage, overlooks, water features, benches, trash cans and pocket parks.

The Mission Reach, extending south of downtown from Alamo Street to Loop 410 South, will focus on ecosystem restoration, transforming the straightened river to replicate the original flow of the river while improving flood control, reducing erosion, re-introducing native vegetation and creating an environment more suitable for recreation and wildlife. This ecosystem restoration project will establish 24,000 native trees, 56 acres of native grasses, 113 acres of aquatic habitat, 320 acres of riparian habitat and restore two river remnants. The Mission Reach will re-establish historic and cultural connections to the Spanish missions and allow the river to act as a gateway to and catalyst for economic development and neighborhood revitalization occurring in a historically underdeveloped and neglected sector which is now home to Toyota's Texas Headquarters and its affiliated manufacturing facilities.

The Downtown Reach, located in the heart of the city, was completed in October 2002. It included renovation and repair of 60-year-old walkways, the river channel and flood retaining walls, and it enhanced the appearance of the River Walk.

How is the San Antonio River Improvements Project being funded?

The $68.4 million Museum Reach is being funded by the City ($52.3 million), County ($13.1 million) and the San Antonio River Foundation ($3 million). SARA negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding with the City and County to provide $1.5 million annually beginning in 2009 toward future operations and maintenance activity on the SARIP. The funding from SARA offsets future City operations and maintenance costs and provides the City additional funding capacity to issue debt to cover a portion of the City's funding for construction of the Museum Reach.

The Mission Reach is funded by the County ($33 million), City ($15.4 million) and the San Antonio River Foundation ($4.8 million) as well as the San Antonio Water System ($1.3 million) and the USACE ($72.1 million) for a total project cost of $126.6 million.

The remaining $21.7 million is comprised of completed portions of the project -- including the concept designs, Downtown Reach and Eagleland Project (South of Alamo Street near Blue Star) -- and was funded by the City ($7 million), County ($12.9 million) and USACE ($1.8 million).

What will be the economic impact of the San Antonio River Improvements Project?

According to an economic impact study conducted by the San Antonio River Foundation, with support from the San Antonio River Authority, the range of economic activity expected within the SARIP will have significant impact on the region's economy, creating almost a billion dollars of output and hundreds of millions in earnings annually, while supporting almost 10,000 permanent jobs at build-out.

The expected patterns of development within the SARIP should add significantly to the area's tax base, as the sales, property and hotel taxes to the City derived from development in the region should approach $9.3 million annually. When the ripple effects through the community of increased economic activity are considered, the total annual tax impact to the City should exceed $12.5 million each year.

Additionally, the SARIP promises to add as much as $40.7 million (a 10 percent premium) to the underlying values of the tax base due to the enhancement of open space and parks, independent of the values resulting from redevelopment of existing physical buildings and properties.

How will the San Antonio River Improvements Project impact development and construction?

The Museum Reach will become an ideal location for multi-family residential development along with small businesses and restaurants, shops and coffee houses. The area will support both rental apartments and for-sale condominium units, with the most attractive development opportunities falling directly along the river, but in time expanding to the blocks behind the river corridor. Hotel and entertainment development is also expected along the Museum Reach.

The Mission Reach will see enhanced quality of life through improved riverine ecosystem and recreational opportunities while also enhancing the stability of the river and its ability to convey flood waters. This will raise property values of land closer to the river and will increase demand for new and revitalized real estate development, thus creating a more desirable living and working environment for area residents.

How will the San Antonio River Improvements Project impact the River North TIRZ (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, which returns property taxes attributable to new improvements to the district to finance public improvements)?

SARIP runs through the heart of the River North TIRZ and will undoubtedly have a positive impact. Based on economic analysis, the projected overall land-use allocation at build-out of the River North TIRZ will include a total of 5,775 residential units, 7,250 parking spaces, 254,000 square feet of new retail, 690,000 square feet of office space, and a 150-room hotel.
Can't wait to see this HUGE project is completed.
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