Pearl: San Antonio, Texas

Planning Excellence

The Pearl neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas, is a demonstration of how one planning success begets another.

A public-private partnership between the City of San Antonio, its planners, and Silver Ventures — a San Antonio-based development company — decided to link the abandoned Pearl Brewery Complex to the wildly successful San Antonio River Walk.

Seen in the background, the historic Pearl Brewhouse is now home to the award-winning Hotel Emma. Photo courtesy Matt Buikema.

The historic Pearl Brewery has a 100-plus-year history as a dynamic place famous for making the highest quality beer, serving as an innovative and loyal employer, and acting as a cultural hub in San Antonio.  A source of pride for generations, Pearl fell into decline after the brewery was acquired by Pabst in the 1980s. In 2001, Silver Ventures acquired the property and started working with Lake Flato Architects and the City of San Antonio on a master plan that would preserve and restore the history of the property, generate a dynamic new energy for the area, and link Pearl to the surrounding neighborhood and downtown with a dramatic restoration of the riverfront.

The fundamental idea was to create a place for and by locals that also appeals to visitors. At the heart of the whole project is a commitment to all things culinary. Pearl partnered with the Culinary Institute of America to launch their first urban campus with a focus on Latin cuisine and creating educational access for historically underserved student populations. Pearl also has worked over the last 15 years with independent local chefs to open 19 food and beverage establishments. Its latest culinary project, the Bottling Department Food Hall, which features five local operators offering diverse cuisine at affordable prices, opened in 2017.

The public-private partnership between Pearl and San Antonio's city planners has been a catalyst for historic preservation and economic development in the city center, and Pearl's rapid ascent has allowed it to become a nexus of economic and social activity once again.

More than 30,000 visitors come to Pearl weekly to enjoy the food, shops, and historic structures. Photo courtesy Matt Buikema.

Defining Characteristics and Features

  • Despite being known for its former brewery, Pearl is also part of what is known as the Kids' Culture Corridor, a two-mile strip of Broadway defined by the Witte Museum, the San Antonio Botanical Garden, and the Doseum Children's museum.
  • Pearl has recently opened Pearl Park with an interactive water feature and regular programming that draws a broad spectrum of San Antonio residents, including many families.
  • The Culinary Institute is partnering with the San Antonio Independent School District to create a culinary education pipeline and encourage students to graduate, pursue a higher degree, and stay in San Antonio to contribute to the culinary landscape of the city.
  • The award-winning boutique Hotel Emma, located in the renovated 1894 brewhouse, now provides a world-class destination for visitors to the neighborhood while preserving the historic character of the neighborhood.
  • The entire district was built without street curbs and includes multiple parks, plazas, paseos, and a riverside amphitheater, making it particularly inviting for pedestrians.
  • Events for the public abound and including a twice-weekly farmers' market, children's theater, concerts, and cultural activities year-round.

By the Numbers

  • 30,000-plus weekly visitors, including 8,000 farmers' market shoppers
  • 50 locally run businesses
  • 500,000 square feet of former brownfield brewery salvaged and repurposed
  • 500-kilowatt solar array is one of the largest private arrays in the state of Texas
  • More than 500 residential units are located within the former brewery footprint

Designated Area

Pearl is bordered by the San Antonio River Walk to the west, East Grayson Street to the north, Broadway Street to the east, and Newell Avenue to the south.

The twice-weekly local farmers' market in Pearl is patronized by more than 8,000 shoppers. Photo courtesy Matt Buikema.

Web Resources

Pearl Website

Historic Hotel Emma

Cellars at Pearl

San Antonio Tomorrow Master Plan