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Bexar County Commissioners approve funding for downtown creek project, historic movie palace

One of the completed portions of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park.
Robin Jerstad
San Antonio River Authority
One of the completed portions of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park.

Bexar County Commissioners on Tuesday approved more than $26 million to continue progress on phases three and four of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park.

Commissioners have committed more than $260 million towards the project that flows through west downtown, from I-35 and North Santa Rosa to the north to I-35 and the Alazan-Apache Creek confluence to the south.

The project features sidewalks, art installations, water features and public performance areas.

The project's manager, Christine Clayton of the San Antonio River Authority, told commissioners the work is generally on schedule. There has been some trouble pushing the project through some hotel properties between Cesar Chavez and El Paso Streets.

Signage could direct foot traffic to the next stretch of the developed creek, but Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores was opposed to that proposal.

"So we must exist all our possibilities to see if we can make it continuous or as usual there is a division where tourists or other people who are going to walk along San Pedro Creek, there is a block, something that blocks them."

The creek project should be completed in 2023.

In other action, commissioners approved $7 million to resurrect the restoration of the Alameda Theater on Houston Street.

Work on the theater was halted due to funding constraints caused by the pandemic.

The restoration project is a joint effort between the city, Bexar County, the Alameda Theater Conservancy, and Texas Public Radio.

The vote by the commissioners breathes new life into the effort to return the theater to its post-World War II heyday as a movie palace. Several movie stars from Mexico appeared at the theater after it opened in 1949. It closed in the 1980s and was purchased by the City of San Antonio in 1994, with talks beginning then to restore it.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.

The county's project manager, Tony Canez, said several treasured features of the theater will be fully restored.

"Iconic details, including the facade on Houston Street, the Alameda marquee, and the historic black light murals will be carefully and respectfully restored."

The theater has flexible seating that can welcome 1,400. It may also become home to art and music classes and perhaps a home for the financially troubled San Antonio Symphony.

It will also have a stage thrust that puts the entertainment closer to the audience.

The theater is also adjacent to TPR's headquarters on Commerce Street.

Commissioners also approved $4.4 million for emergency rental assistance due to the pandemic.

Demand for rent help and other housing costs remains high from local residents who lost their jobs or job hours in trying times.

The county's economic development executive director, David Marquez, told commissioners the pandemic continues to take a toll on local housing security.

"We're still expending about a million dollars a month. The last month was a little less than that. We're still receiving about a thousand applications a week, so there's still ongoing demand for this program,” he said.

The county has now contributed $9 million to a fund to help those in need with housing costs. The city has agreed to oversee the county's housing assistance efforts along with its own.

Commissioners also approved $550,000 for the HERO program, which provides free roadside assistance to motorists and helps clear wrecks from freeways to prevent secondary crashes.

The court also voted to approve a two-year contract extension for County Manager David Smith through 2025. The county's first-ever manager was appointed in 2011 and earns an annual salary of $285,000.

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