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An old concrete ditch in downtown San Antonio has landscaping, walkways, public art

San Antonio and Bexar County dignitaries held a grand opening ceremony for the San Pedro Creek Culture Park on Friday October 14, 2022.
Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
"Stream" public artwork is located at the base of Texas Public Radio HQ at 321 West Commerce

Phase I of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park is finally complete. The re-imagination of what had been a concrete ditch for decades is filled with landscaping, walkways, stone walls, public art and water features.

The block between Houston and Commerce streets near the Spanish Governor’s Palace was overflowing with humanity Friday evening for the several hundred gathered to see their tax dollars at work.

The big attraction was a 250-foot colorfully lit waterfall. When officials turned it on, the crowd roared.

The waterfall, named "Stream," is a public artwork by New York artist Adam Brown. The waterfall lights change colors once synched to music or voices from a 1940s style microphone at its base.

“People should come and experience it. I’m surprised by how few people have experienced it," said poet and artist John Phillip Santos. "I think this enhanced track now will maybe invite still more folks down.”

San Antonian Chris Castillo described what he’d seen.

“Art installations, a lot of nice water features, seems like it’s built to last. High quality. It’s not going to fall apart in a few years," Castillo said. "So it seems like a solid effort. I do appreciate them putting money into infrastructure projects like this.”

The phase completed runs from Houston Street to Cesar Chavez. 

“I think this is going to be bigger than most San Antonians ever understood as it was coming together. It will rival some parts of the River Walk, and it should," said former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros. "It basically takes the River Walk to the west side of downtown, an area that’s been overlooked, generally. It makes water the whole thread that holds the city together in a wonderful way.”

Nearby art also includes a five-panel mural that tells the county's 300-year history. The foundations of an old African Methodist Episcopal Church, soap works, and brewery can also be seen. There is also an outdoor public performance area.

The entire San Pedro Creek Culture Park, when completed, will run 2.2-miles along the creek through west downtown. The total project is currently valued at $290 million. It is funded by the county and managed by the San Antonio River Authority.

County Judge Nelson Wolff during his recent State of the County Address said the culture park is spurring new economic growth.

He also said the creek project has helped restore the ecosystem, improved flood control, cleaned the water, and has seen the return of native trees and plants.

Wolff and Cisneros were among local dignitaries who attended Friday's grand opening, including City Councilwoman Teri Castillo, County Commissioners Rebecca Clay-Flores and Justin Rodriguez, County Clerk Lucy Adame-Clark, Congressman Henry Cuellar, former Mayor Phil Hardberger, Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla, former San Antonio River Authority General Manager Suzanne Scott, San Antonio River Authority Public Art Curator Carrie Browne, and artists Lionel and Kathy Sosa.

"Stream" as it appears during the day. Downtown visitors can stroll creek side or find a place to sit to eat lunch. TPR HQ sits to the right.
Brian Kirkpatrick
Texas Public Radio
"Stream" as it appears during the day. Downtown visitors can stroll creek side or find a place to sit to eat lunch. TPR HQ sits to the right.

The grand opening ceremony continued Saturday, when Texas Public Radio — headquartered alongside the San Pedro Creek — celebrated its own grand opening.

The TPR building is adjacent to the 73-year-old Alameda Theatre, once one of the largest Spanish language movie theaters in the country for decades before it closed in the 1980s.

"This particular area in my memory was where my grandmother on my mother's side would take me to the movies at the Alameda,” said former San Antonian B.K. Munguia. “ And this is where many Mexican-American families shopped."

Residents are looking forward to future phases of the San Pedro Creek redevelopment project, that include renovation plans for the Alameda and the entire area surrounding the creek.

"I sincerely hope the community can enjoy this. Originally some people thought this was going to be a little mini River Walk. That's not the idea,” said San Antonian Robert Ramirez. “The idea is this is a gift to the community. And we hope that the community can enjoy it. And certainly tourists are welcome. But this is really for us."

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii