San Antonio 2006
Union Stockyard District Workshop
By Nathan Randall
AICP Special Project Associate
The AICP Community Planning Workshop began early Saturday April 22, 2006, with a neighborhood and site tour that included both planners and community stakeholders. Members of the Nogalitos-Zarzamora Coalition, as well as San Antonio City Council Member Patti Radle, narrated the tour. Members of the coalition gave the tour group background on the history of the coalition and the Nogalitos/S. Zarzamora Community Plan adopted by the City of San Antonio.
During the bus tour of the Nogalitos neighborhood and the project site, known as the former Swift Meat Packing House and located adjacent to the Union Stockyards, the workshop group noted several community features. Among these were a library, an elementary school, and a linear park. Neighborhood land-uses are primarily single-story single-family residential buildings on side streets and older commercial establishments such as strip centers and auto repair shops located along Nogalitos St.
Although the neighborhood has existing resources, the redevelopment challenges faced by the neighborhood and especially the project site became evident during the tour. Although the site is now vacant land with only a gentle slope upward from San Marcos St., it has environmental contamination on 1.5 acres of the 9.72-acre site.
The property also has confusing accessibility, despite — or perhaps because of — the presence of Interstate 35 and San Pedro Creek directly to the east.
The workshop group traveled to the City of San Antonio Development and Business Services Building to begin its work day following the tour. The day began with breakfast tacos and inspirational introductions from Sue Schwartz, FAICP, president of the American Institute of Certified Planners, Patti Radle, and Henry Alverez, director of the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA), which now owns the Swift property.
Workshop participants got down to work quickly and effectively thanks in part to the facilitation efforts of Bob Ashcroft. He assigned each of the small groups at the workshop to "collaboratively discuss and reach consensus on how the site should be developed." Suggested items for small groups to discuss included: identification of development constraints and opportunities, site land uses, and site features. Each small group was asked to create two products to communicate its consensus to the rest of the workshop group: a conceptual site plan graphic and a written list of site recommendations.
Each small group, or team, reported its results to the rest of the workshop group following a working lunch. Elements of the Team 1 recommendations included residential and commercial mixed-use development along the front (east) side of the site. Perhaps its most notable recommendation was its open space, or green spine, lengthwise down the center of the site. Team 2 recommended placing retail/office and an Economic Development Center on the front (east) side of the site with housing toward the rear (west) away from Interstate 35. Team 3 positioned a new road along the slanted north side of the property that included a multi-use development corridor.
Further recommendations from this team featured a transportation node in the center of the site surrounded by retail uses, and open space toward the front of the site that featured a small pond. Team 4 also recommended a new street along the north side of the property and added two small internal streets that met at a roundabout. The group proposed commercial uses along the San Marcos St. side and residential uses that transitioned in density from highest along the new road to lowest next to the existing single-family neighborhood.
In the second work session, each team was asked to create a composite conceptual site plan using common concepts from all the groups. Unique or interesting elements from the small groups could be included. Each team was also asked to create a further refined list of site development recommendations based on its assigned issue. Such issues included working with the unique neighborhood culture, making the site a place people want to be, leveraging SAHA ownership of the site, and ensuring site accessibility.
Built in the late 1800s, the Union Stockyard was constructed to serve the cattle industry. Sellers brought their herds from ranches throughout south Texas. Buyers loaded cattle directly onto railcars, most bound for fattening and slaughter at feedlots in Kansas. From 1889 to April 2001, when they closed down, the stockyards were open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, to serve the agribusiness community. Auctions were held almost daily in an amphitheater built to hold 400 bidders. Union Stockyards San Antonio, Inc., has been developing its property for warehousing, office, and industrial uses. The Swift Packing House, previously located adjacent to the Union Stockyards on 10.5 acres, was demolished and the site remains vacant. The Swift property is just one mile south of downtown and is currently owned by the San Antonio Housing Authority.
The results from this work session, and from the entire day's workshop, have been incorporated into a report that the San Antonio Housing Authority and the City of San Antonio will use to guide future development decisions for the site.
Recent Planning Efforts
The adjacent community completed a neighborhood plan that was adopted by City Council in September 2004 through the City’s Neighborhood and Community Building Program. During the planning process the community identified many ideas for their neighborhood concerning quality of life, infrastructure, crime prevention, recreation and economic development. The economic development section of the plan (see page 32 action 3.1.8 of the plan) discusses their idea to turn the Stockyards into an outdoor shopping center and call it the ShopYards.