Bexar County commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved nearly $60 million to complete the segment of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park project currently under construction—about three blocks from Houston Street south to Nueva Street.
The entirety of Phase 1.2 will cost $74.7 million, a 20 percent increase from initial estimates, said Kerry Averyt, San Antonio River Authority (SARA) Senior Engineer and San Pedro Creek project manager.
To date, the total project has a cost about $178 million.
"There’s a lot of construction going on, that has the tendency to cause prices to trend upward with labor and materials," he said. "These three blocks, by far, are the most difficult (construction) along the (creek's) two-mile stretch."
Initial plans for an amphitheater were scrapped in favor of a functional plaza, adjacent to the Alameda Theater, that will allow for public event rentals, receptions and special cultural performances. The updated design also includes a water wall spanning 230 feet, which will help keep visitors cool and improve water quality, and a series of murals that depict the “epic history” of Bexar County and San Antonio.
The segment is just one of the many developments planned for the area.
SARA officials have begun working with the University of Texas at San Antonio, following its recent announcement of a multimillion-dollar expansion that will bring its new School of Data Science and relocate its College of Business to the creek, to incorporate the creek’s design with the design of the campus, while creating an inviting space for students.
From the $59.38 million approved on Tuesday, $48.49 million will be used for construction; $3.06 million for project management services; $4.84 million will go toward construction services and archeological studies, and $3 million will be used to complete pre-construction and designs for the third segment of Phase 1 and Phase 2. Those designs are expected to be completed by October 2019.
SARA officials Tuesday stated that $39.98 million of the total available funding was designated for San Pedro Creek Culture Park, and that utility companies such as SAWS and CPS Energy would reimburse $2.48 million. Commissioners approved $16.4 million in county funds from a federal government reimbursement, specifically for the 2013 Mission Reach project.
The presentation did result in some confusion about project costs, as well as the cost of redesigns.
“The numbers, when I add them up, are really adding up,” said County Commissioner Tommy Calvert, who called for a future off-session meeting with SARA.
"This document from 2014 indicates the original design authorization was for $13.9 million," he said, "but by my calculations, when I added up the amendments from May 2016, July 2016, October 2016, June 2017, February 2018—not including today—I got $22,832,000. And so then from the original budget, on just design ... that’s almost 100 percent over (budget).”
SARA officials said they would send a more detailed breakdown of the costs, but that the funds spent on redesigns help save on construction costs down the road, SARA General Manager Suzanne Scott said.
"It’s a balance," she said.
The first segment of Phase 1—from the flood tunnel inlet behind the Fox Tech campus to Houston Street—was completed under budget and opened in May. However, the park closed in June for redesigns after children swam in an area intended for wading and with potentially harmful bacteria.
The first phase was built to attract visitors, said County Commissioner Paul Elizondo, "so people, especially children, can’t help but want to get in there.”
"It's just a simple thing, to me, with all the brains that you guys have and all the fees we're putting up, that we can’t come up with that," Elizondo told SARA staff members. "It doesn’t have to be treated water and all this magical stuff."
"Whatever water is brought to all the swimming pools downtown and at the hotels—bring that for that particular segment, put the rest into the regular system as planned and keep [the creek water and swimming water separate."
SARA officials said they would consider ways to make Elizondo’s proposed potable water segment a possibility, but it would require finding a way to prevent runoff contamination, safely convey stormwater and receive special permits from both the state of Texas and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"There are limits as to what can be done in a natural creek," Scott said. "We’re continuing to explore it, but there’s a lot of factors that we have to work on."