San Antonio 360: The Rise and Decline of the Concentric City 1890–2010
This paper catalogs the suburban expansion of San Antonio, Texas by decade between the years 1890 and 2009, a time frame that saw the city reorganize its morphological structure four times. The city inhabited a 36-square mile grid until the late nineteenth century; expanded radially along streetcar lines during the early twentieth century; grew concentrically along automotive ring roads during the mid-twentieth century; and has assumed a polycentric organization within the past two decades. This research places San Antonio’s recent demographic and geographic boom into historical perspective, utilizing construction completions in host Bexar County to answer the following question: how did the form, location, and type of suburban growth shift over 120 years? The research reveals three trends: first, that historically concentric growth patterns began to assume a polycentric configuration in the late twentieth century; second, that patterns of centrifugal expansion began to accelerate dramatically during the same time period; and third, that the relative increase of multifamily completions has surpassed that of single-family completions in five of the last six decades. These findings suggest that the City of San Antonio, in order to establish a sustainable growth model, must prioritize the opportunities and constraints associated with polycentric suburban expansion.