The park revitalises a once-sacred creek and reduces flood risk with inspired art, splendid paseos, native plantings, unique plazas, places of respite and cultural reflections.
By expanding and beautifying the long-forgotten creek with a linear park, the 100-year floodplain is wholly contained within its banks while building literal and metaphorical bridges to the past, and connecting long-separated cultures with a one-of-a-kind project.
Using a state-of-the-art crest gate to control the creek’s water surface area and depth, the project creates additional aquatic habitat and improves water quality. The revitalization replaced a concrete streambed with cobble and natural materials to further enhance the aquatic habitat and restore the ecosystem that once propagated the creek.
The project has spurred a development renaissance in downtown San Antonio and is estimated to catalyse $1.5bn in economic impact—creating 2,100 new housing units;1,428 new downtown employees; 7,300 new downtown residents; a 150% increase in property value; and $225m in tax revenue.
Throughout the project, the area’s history has been central. From preserving about 60% percent of the original retaining walls—dating to the 1780s—to creating new artwork referencing the city’s founding, the project offers an educational oasis in the city.
The team was challenged to work in the active creek which drains 45 square miles of San Antonio. Because the channel is being widened and deepened, the end of Phase 1.1 is 8 feet below the existing channel at Phase 1.2—creating a dam at the end of the project. To solve this, the team drained the water to a 10-foot-diameter casing with an automated, submersible pump to move the water over the “dam” and downstream.
The system was first tested in August 2017, when the site ended up under 11 feet of water. With the system in place, the water was pumped out by the next morning and crews were back at work the day after. Without this, work would have shut down for nearly a week.
Further, the study area contained 39 historic resources either on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. By installing seismic monitors near these buildings, the team kept vibrations within safe levels and eliminating structural damage.
There were also signs of prehistoric humans living along the creek for more than 10,000 years. All excavations exceeding six inches were overseen by archaeologists.
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San Pedro River Authority