It has been suggested by Jack Kent, the artist who contributed the Thurberesque handiwork to the right, that a better name for this item is “column”, pun completely intended. As a lover and practitioner of that lowest form of humor…I agree.
For this “column” I thought I’d expand on King William’s role in continuing to teach the rest of the city what a good urban life can look like. There is a very large industry in this country devoted to trying to re-animate central cities, bringing variety of experience and vitality into shuttered cores. That’s hardly our problem here. Blessed with parks, access to the River Walk and pending improvements of the Mission Reach besides ready access to downtown, we are already what urban planners dream of.
In the very near future we’ll see transformations around the edges of HemisFair through the Complete Streets project which will add new landscaping, sidewalks and traffic management, bringing us into a closer union with downtown. When the already-funded streetcar system reaches south, it will provide even easier access to the heart of San Antonio as close as a walk to a South Alamo stop. I’ve been attending planning sessions for the HemisFair Master Plan and Complete Streets plan for about 18 months now and am always surprised that San Antonio continues to find funding for these projects in this terrible economy.
The texture of a wonderful urban neighborhood is best seen at ground level, not from the Olympian perspective of a planner’s map. The First Friday weekend of February, for the first time in months, I found I had some time on my hands and decided to experience what everyone else is enjoying in our neighborhood. I started with a First Thursday exhibition opening at the King William office, followed by an end to end survey of First Friday, followed by Jim Cullum’s new Swing Music night at Liberty bar. With a minimal expenditure of shoe leather (and no gas) I found myself completely surrounded by cultural pursuits, very good dining, and the pure pleasure of people watching within a short walk of my front door. This is the kind of easy vitality planners covet. We already own this kind of urban pleasure and freedom of choice. Others are paying attention. I bumped in to former Express-News editor Bob Rivard with a camera crew trolling the First Friday crowds for a documentary on a night out in the neighborhood. Saturday at Liberty was a revelation, all the swing dancers were twenty-somethings (except for Edith McCallister, who wore them all out and closed the place). The Landing’s loss appears to be our gain. It’s easy to see why the selection of King William as a Cultural Arts District was a no-contest decision. The real urban culture of San Antonio is alive and very well right within our borders.