About the Downtown Area Regional Center
Downtown Area Regional Center
Explore the tabs below to learn more about the assets, challenges and opportunities in the Downtown Area and to view our study area map.
Downtown possesses many assets, some historic and others as a result of new wants and needs. The San Antonio River Walk, the Alamo, San Fernando Cathedral, and Tower of the Americas are just a few of the historic places that make Downtown San Antonio unique. Assets such as the Alameda and Majestic theaters reflect the area’s history as a center of nightlife and entertainment. Downtown also features some of the most walkable and bikeable areas in the entire city and is a major transit hub. While Downtown may be primarily associated with a strong tourism industry, other significant employers include various governmental agencies, healthcare, and finance. It is also an emerging center for IT (information technology) and professional service jobs. Other assets include the redeveloping Hemisfair Park and San Pedro Creek improvements.
One of Downtown’s greatest assets, a strong tourism industry, also poses one of its greatest challenges. Long identified as a tourist destination, Downtown has experienced an abundance of hotel development which poses a barrier to residential development due to speculative land pricing. This is most evident in the Downtown core. Recently developed housing is not affordable for many people already living in the Downtown area, with average rental rates higher than the rest of the county for all types of units. Additionally, the Downtown plan area has a higher vacancy rate (13%) than the city as a whole (8%), possibly due to the concentration of short term rentals. While still highly walkable, the street level pedestrian experience currently falls far short of the Riverwalk experience. The Downtown plan area suffers widespread gaps in the sidewalk network and areas of poor sidewalk condition, prevalent surface parking detracting from the pedestrian experience, and would benefit from better connectivity with adjacent neighborhoods.
Opportunity abounds for the Downtown Planning Area. The abundance of parking lots and garages present a substantial inventory of underutilized land that may be redeveloped for more beneficial uses such as housing and office space. Likewise, the vacant land and industrial sites found mainly around the periphery of the plan area are prime redevelopment opportunities that can help provide more mixed use places, residential options, and 18-hour amenities. It is essential that these redevelopments be sensitive to the context of the surrounding area. While Downtown is physically separated from adjacent neighborhoods by the elevated highways that ring and in some cases divide the plan area, the space beneath them presents opportunities for the creation of creative public spaces and safer, more comfortable links the surrounding neighborhoods.
Sub-Area Plans are intended to provide a more coordinated, efficient and effective structure for neighborhood planning. Existing and future neighborhood planning will be integrated into the planning for regional centers and community planning areas. Neighborhoods will become integral sub-geographies of these sub-areas while also receiving special attention through chapters and/or sections in each Sub-Area plan, reflecting specific opportunities, challenges, recommendations and priorities from each participating neighborhood. Neighborhood and community plans should be respected, as appropriate, as they are integrated into the sub-area plans.
Comprehensive Plan Regional Centers
Regional centers are one of the major building blocks of San Antonio’s city form and are a major component of the Comprehensive Plan and the overall SA Tomorrow effort.
While most cities have one or two larger employment centers, we have 13. This provides challenges and opportunities. A major organizing element for the Comprehensive Plan is to focus growth in these regional centers, building on the existing pattern of development. They’re envisioned as new “places” where we live, work, and play.
New development is already gravitating to these centers and we can guide additional growth in these areas. Each center is different and its development will be influenced by its existing uses. However, many of the centers are also well-positioned to develop as vibrant mixed-use places. They offer a variety of housing options and price ranges, allow higher-density and incorporate carefully designed and located amenities that will benefit both residents and employees of the center. Each center’s character can attract a different mix of businesses and employees. Therefore, San Antonio must focus its investment and infrastructure strategies on supporting and leveraging the unique identity and assets of each center.