Another month, another concert on the River. This time it was Henry Brun’s Latin Jazz Orchestra performing in front of the languorous bend that forms our perfect shaded amphitheater. Some of the fainthearted assumed the mercury hitting 100 degrees would mean incineration for the audience. They were very wrong: the breeze picked up just before the concert, and with the aid of whatever was in everyone’s ice buckets and coolers, the atmosphere was refreshing and the occasion was congenial.
I hope this will always remain so. I was struck by the number of people who happened on the concert while doing more active things (biking, running, marching with maps and guidebooks) and were pulled in by the magic gravity of the music. I wonder how King William will fare as the centerpiece for a rapidly re-developing near south side?
Today’s paper (I’m writing this on Tuesday the 12th of June) carries with it the announcement of more change in the very near future. An article on the Business page outlined the anticipated start of construction of a very substantial (and long delayed) project on the Big Tex site, adjacent to the Blue Star. This may happen as early as the first quarter of next year. The seven and a half acre development will feature 320 residential units, shops, bars, restaurants and a new home for the Blue Star Contemporary Arts Center, twice the size of our present neighbor. This represents at least $42 million in new investment just across the river from our Historic District boundary.
Our area will continue to be the focus for more concentrated development because we have (and have helped create) amenities that make urban life livable and desirable. King William’s investment in parks and performances, among many other things, enhances the lives of more people than live within the confines of our neighborhood boundary line. With the movement of ex-suburbanites to the city core, meaning, of course, to our area, will come rising land values (and taxes) and increased demand for restaurants, recreation and places to live. Our charter compels us to enhance the residential nature of King William, but by that very nature there will also be demand for support services and commercial activity that already have a home on South Alamo and South St. Mary’s. We need to begin thinking about the future as well as the past in King William, and we need to plan for it.
One of the hallmarks of the very near future should be the development of a neighborhood plan for King William, a flexible but comprehensive document that maps out our hoped-for future. This should be a work of much broader scope than regulations of color and materials. It should be a visionary guide to a whole, sustainable and satisfying urban life. It should be a means to as much self-determination as we can achieve together. In the vacuum left by our own lack of planning, others will be more than happy to fill the void with their own visions.