Growth and Heritage Colliding in San Antonio

As demand for real estate grows, residents in the city's historic neighborhoods face rising costs and the threat of displacement.

October 12, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

San Antonio Christmas

Corey Leopold / Flickr

San Antonio, Texas is experiencing new growth and development in its historic core. But, as Patrick Sisson reports, "community advocates are pushing back against some of this growth, saying the new office and apartment towers are encroaching on the city’s historic neighborhoods that have formed a cultural core of Mexican American heritage."

As one of America's fastest growing–and also "one of the most segregated and poor"–cities, San Antonio is seeing rapid population growth, which requires new development. "A number of large-scale projects will bolster recent growth downtown. The $700 million Lone Star District should break ground this year; Essex Modern City, a $150 million multiuse district, finally cleared funding and regulatory hurdles; and the second phase of redevelopment within Hemisfair will break ground this fall."

But the availability of real estate in the city's "relatively small, walkable downtown" does not match the growing demand. "That demand, and the need for new housing, has worried advocates and community members in the Westside, a neighborhood of small stores, or tienditas, and tightly knit single-family homes that is a wellspring of affordable homeownership for low- to medium-income residents, with homes often passed down through generations." Levar Martin, chief program officer of the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, says "[i]t’s not just about preserving the housing stock. It’s about people’s culture and life."

Advocates are calling for more investment in affordable housing and "recognition of historic architecture" that will protect communities. Advocates like Martin say "[n]ow is the time to figure out the right formula for preserving the city’s heritage and maintaining affordable housing."

"City and housing officials are grappling with what comes next, especially when it comes to access and affordability" for all income levels. "Mayor Ron Nirenberg and his administration have created means to invest in housing, including setting aside funding for affordable housing and establishing a $1 million risk mitigation fund in 2019 to help residents displaced by development, which will receive $4 million in additional funds this year." The city is also working on a new strategic housing plan that seeks to create 28,000 new units over the next decade. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021 in The New York Times

Soldier Field

Phase 1 Revealed for $20 Billion Chicago Megaproject

Plans for One Central, a proposed megadevelopment that would add 22.3 million square feet of buildings to the city of Chicago, are taking shape.

October 19, 2021 - Chicago Tribune

A screengrab of the Caharlotte Future virtual open house.

Top Websites for Urban Planning – 2021

Planetizen's annual list of the best of the urban planning Internet.

October 25, 2021 - James Brasuell

An aerial image of the neighborhood of Buckman in Portland, Oregon.

Homeowner Groups Find an Antidote to Zoning Reforms: National Register Historic Districts

Many neighborhoods are moving to create historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places in response to the growing number of states, cities, and neighborhoods loosening single-family residential zones.

October 22, 2021 - Sightline Institute

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.