I realize that the City Hall sanctioned narrative calls for popping champagne corks: the University of the Incarnate Word proposal to lease a small corner of Brackenridge Park for a fine-arts school and gallery (and to use the $1 million+ proposed rent to preserve adjacent Miraflores park) is dead, slayed by the coalition that often protects SA from poor development decisions -- the San Antonio Conservation Society, Friends of the Parks, and the San Antonio Parks Foundation, which is to say former Mayor Lila Cockrell. The winner: The adjacent San Antonio Zoo, to whom the land was originally promised back in 1979, which will clean up the spot for now and eventually extend its Africa holdings there.
A few things it would've been nice to debate with a wider swath of the public before our Mayor tucked tail and caved to the outcry:
- the Zoo is open to the public, but it's not free. You won't be wandering over there to picnic w/o paying the entry fee. Part of UIW's proposal included extending a walkway under Hildebrand, taking the (free) river walk all the way to the river's source, the blue hole, and providing funding for (again free) Miraflores.
- the Zoo is not a perfect neighbor, being the longtime source of hippo-produced bacteria levels and the inexplicable jailer of Lucky the lone Asian elephant
- perhaps the only thing SA is poorer in than greenspace is educational attainment; UIW is a university with a long and deep commitment to San Antonio
- the UIW proposal included fine-arts resources and a gallery, which would've fit nicely with the Museum Reach's other institutions - Southwest School of Art & Craft, SAMA, the Witte. Rice University in Houston is private, but I visit their excellent gallery whenever I'm in town
There are reasons to object to the UIW vision -- yes, it would've been a lease, but once the institutional buildings were there, it's unlikely we would've reclaimed it for public use, but as noted above, the Zoo is not free to the public either, and once they've parked permanent animal exhibits there, it won't be greenspace, either. More importantly, creating more impervious cover (including, perhaps, parking spaces) near the river's headwaters would require forward-thinking design and construction. But, really, is expanding the Zoo so much more preferable that we want to shut down the conversation before it even began? If we had a real debate about it, maybe we'd even find a third option.
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