San Pedro Creek's current phase a major undertaking with channel widening, archeological digs

by Gaige DavilaFebruary 17, 2019
This segment of San Pedro Creek Culture Park​, between West Houston and West Commerce streets, will feature a 250-foot-wide waterfall. V. FINSTER | HERON

When it's completed in March 2021, the next segment of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park will include a plaza in front of the upcoming Texas Public Radio headquarters inside the Alameda Theatre; a garden facing a 250-foot-wide waterfall; and walkways 18 feet below street level lined with murals depicting the area's history.


The $75 million segment, from West Houston Street, next to the Alameda, to West Nueva Street, is currently under construction.

The channel is being widened from 15 feet to between 25 and 30 feet, depending on the location of the creek. The difficulties, according to San Antonio River Authority (SARA) Senior Engineer Kerry Averyt, come from reconstructing the street bridges on Nueva, Dolorosa, Commerce and Houston Street—to accommodate the widening of San Pedro Creek’s channel—and archaeological diggings in Calder Alley, which runs parallel to the creek behind the Spanish Governor’s Palace.

Each time the construction team digs below six inches into the ground in that area, Averyt said, an archaeological investigation is launched, led by Raba Kistner, an engineering consulting firm. The last investigation, which began in September, took two to three months. According to media reports, archaeologists found thousands of artifacts—cattle bones, ceramics, a cannon ball—that Averyt said were eventually curated by the University of Texas at San Antonio’s (UTSA) Center for Archaeological Research.

“This is a critical part, one of the most difficult parts (of the project),” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. The majority of the funding is coming from the county. In December, the county commissioners approved $60 million toward this segment of the project. The $75 million price tag is a 20 percent increase from initial estimates, Averyt told commissioners two months ago.

Overall, the total project has cost roughly $178 million.

Walkways are being constructed using steel rebar casings that will be drilled into the ground, on the sides of the newly expanded channel. The rebar casings will then be filled with concrete and act as the walkways’ foundation, Averyt said.

A community gathering plaza for performances and other events will be located across the creek from the Alameda Theatre. COURTESY HDR, AND MUÑOZ AND COMPANY
A 250-foot-wide cascading wall of water will flow between West Houston and West Commerce streets. COURTESY HDR, AND MUÑOZ AND COMPANY

From Houston south to West Commerce, construction on Texas Public Radio’s (TPR) new headquarters inside the Alameda Theatre is happening at the same time as the park’s. Construction teams for both are coordinating on design and timing.

In this area, a 250-foot-wide waterfall will be powered by a water pump, which will perpetually send water 15 feet down into the creek. The engineering philosophy behind the project, Averyt said, was to improve the creek’s water quality by oxygenating the water, while creating a breeze that will cool down the area. To make room for walkways and the waterfall, a Dollar General store on Commerce was purchased and demolished by the river authority to make room for the widening of the creek channel.

Calder Alley, which runs parallel to the creek, is located behind the Spanish Governor's Palace. COURTESY HDR, AND MUÑOZ AND COMPANY
San Pedro Creek Culture Park below Calder Alley at night. COURTESY HDR, AND MUÑOZ AND COMPANY

From West Commerce to Dolorosa, murals along Calder Alley will depict the history of Bexar County and San Antonio, according to SARA Art Curator Carrie Brown.

Paths and grassy knolls line this section of San Pedro Creek Culture Park, which is located between Dolorosa and West Nueva streets. COURTESY HDR, AND MUÑOZ AND COMPANY

Between Dolorosa and Nueva, UTSA’s College of Business and its new School of Data Science will eventually flank a sculpture garden and murals on the creek. Those buildings are expected to be completed in the next 2-3 years, and the river authority and UTSA will coordinate on their respective construction projects, Averyt said.

In this same stretch, Bexar County will spend the next 15 months vacating inmates from the Central Texas Detention Facility, and will eventually demolish it and the former Bexar County Fire Marshall building to make room for the project, Wolff said.

A segment of San Pedro Creek taken during a tour on Feb. 15, 2019. V. FINSTER | HERON

The project includes reconstructing each bridge in the three-block stretch.

The Commerce Street bridge is being reconstructed in two phases, with the eastbound lane currently closed to traffic. The east and westbound lanes of Commerce will be finished by November. Construction on the Houston Street bridge begins in November; both lanes will be closed to traffic to replace water system and electric utilities. Dolorosa bridge will be reconstructed will come after Houston. During the next segment of construction, the Nueva Street bridge will be reconstructed. In total, eight street bridges will be replaced by the end of the project, according to the San Pedro Creek Culture Park brochure on the project. Staircases will connect the sidewalks to the creek at each bridge, including ADA accessible ramps.

The entire length of the creek will be walkable without having to go onto the street.

Judge Nelson Wolff (center) speaks at the end of a tour over the second segment of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park Feb. 15. He's flanked by County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez (left) and project manager Kerry Averyt. V. FINSTER | HERON

For this segment, Bexar County is using a $35 million reimbursement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from its Mission Reach project, which was received under the condition it be used for flood mitigation, Wolff said. Bexar County Precinct 2 Commissioner Justin Rodriguez asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an additional $25 million, while in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago, he said.

As the project progresses, Wolff said he thinks the cost will go “way down,” explaining the later phases of the project are more focussed on environmental restoration.

The next segment, from Nueva to East Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard, is currently under design. Other phases, from Chavez to past Cevallos Street, are either being designed or planned.

The first segment of San Pedro Creek Culture Park, located along Cameron Street, between the flood inlet tunnel behind Fox Tech and ending at Houston Street, opened in May 2018.

Previously published
San Pedro Creek project moves forward with $60 million in fresh funding

Contact Gaige Davila: 956-372-4776 | | @gaigedavila on Twitter

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