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Study to advance 'The Link' in downtown San Antonio between River Walk and San Pedro Creek

Artist rendering of skyscrapers on the link.png
Universal Services Group
/
San Antonio River Authority
Artist rendering of skyscrapers on The Link, a downtown development proposal

Bexar County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the start of negotiations for a $2 million engineering study to build "The Link" between the San Antonio River Walk and the San Pedro Creek Culture Park.

Described as a project that would turn a concrete urban jungle into a green space oasis in the heart of downtown, The Link would connect the San Antonio River Walk at Convent Park following Savings Street to San Pedro Creek and pass below Soledad, Main and Flores Streets, connecting at street level on Camaron. The public pathway would include green spaces, water features and art.

Aerial view of the path of The Link.png
Romph Pou Agency
/
San Antonio River Authority
Aerial view of the path of The Link

Universal Services Group already plans to anchor one end of The Link with the new Dream Hotel, part of a complex of five skyscrapers of office space, housing, retail, and mixed use space.

Precinct 4 County Commissioner Tommy Calvert told his fellow commissioners the complex is valued at $400 million, so it would make a good return on county investments.

"What we have found in all these projects is that the new development around these projects ends up paying for the debt service for the infrastructure," he said.

Calvert said the high rises would have rooftop amenities and the water features would include use of recycled condensate from the air conditioning systems of nearby buildings.

The engineering study also received a yes vote from Commissioner Justin Rodriguez and County Judge Nelson Wolff. Wolff expressed confidence in the San Antonio River Authority as a partner on the project.

"It has a chance to make a dynamic change," said Wolff of the project's impact on downtown life.

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Earlier this year, Calvert said one reason Austin is attractive to global investors is its night life. He said The Link will energize the downtown entertainment scene. A new downtown cybersecurity school and expanded business classes of the University of Texas at San Antonio is expected to bring more college age students into downtown, another possible boost to San Antonio's otherwise tourist-dominated downtown night life.

Project leaders estimate that The Link and potential surrounding redevelopment would bring approximately $5 billion in new economic impact over 10 years and create jobs. It would also boost city and county property tax revenues.

The concept design work for The Link is being led by Vickrey and Associates, a woman-led engineering firm. Six years ago, renowned engineer Al Groves – who designed the extension of the River Walk to the Convention Center in 1968 – brought The Link to Vickrey, according to a news release.

Vickrey has more than 50 years of experience working on historic downtown projects. It has completed more than 100 projects downtown.

Calvert has been a major backer of the project at commissioners court, which has allocated $41.1 million to start work on The Link Phase 1 from Main to the River Walk

Not all Commissioners approved the engineering study for The Link. Commissioners Rebeca Clay-Flores and Marialyn Barnard voted no. Clay-Flores said the $2 million could be better spent on other county needs and she pointed to slow progress on South Side public projects in her precinct. Barnard said she was opposed because the City of San Antonio has not formally committed financially to the project.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian