San Antonio's Identity Crisis: Development Vs. Uniqueness
In light of the recent and recurring focus on downtown development, the thesis explores the relationship between historic preservation and urban development in San Antonio’s downtown core. Preservation efforts within the urban core have been cyclical in nature. Each cycle brought a new development project, related to or situated in the downtown core that ultimately resulted in the alteration and/or loss of portions of the historic building fabric. Through efforts made by multiple organizations to prevent the demolition of these properties, the City responded by providing more strict preservation policy changes or making concessions with the groups. This cycle raises the question of whether or not the inherent conflict between development and management of the City’s historic resources has a resolution.
To identify the existence of the conflict, and relationship between development and preservation, the thesis documents a brief history of the national preservation movement, local urban development, and local preservation efforts. In an effort to constrain the scope of the study, the focus area was limited to the central core of the City, and emphasized large-scale projects. Data came from an exploration of a variety of historic newspapers, reports, photos and maps, which was combined with a synthesis of existing publications covering a range of topics related to the scope of the thesis.
Ultimately, three trends were identified through the cycle of conflict: conflict exists between preservation and development/planning goals, preservation has been reactive, and there is still no consensus on San Antonio’s identity. What they show is that while there is a cycle of conflict, it does not have to remain so. There are several steps that could be taken to minimize the issue, such as incorporating preservation into the early planning process, and resolving exactly what San Antonio represents to the various stakeholders, and what they want it to continue to be in future.