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Mission Reach by Tracy Idell Hamilton

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PHOTO COURTESY THE SAN ANTONIO RIVER FOUNDATION.

n a bright morning last October, more than 50 years after the San Antonio River south of downtown was turned into a flood control ditch, hundreds of residents turned out to celebrate the completion of what is now the nation’s largest urban river restoration and linear park. Dog walkers, runners, kayakers, neighbors, and families joined dozens of elected and agency officials along the banks of the river park, which, at three times the acreage of Central Park in New York, now boasts hike and bike trails winding through native grasses and among young trees, pavilions of indigenous sandstone, and portals that reconnect the river to its surrounding neighborhoods and to San Antonio’s historic Spanish missions. The eight-mile stretch of the Mission Reach, as the park is known, is part of the larger San Antonio River Improvements Project, a $358 million, decades-in-the-making collaboration to turn the long-neglected river north and south of downtown’s famed River Walk into a walkable, bikable urban park. In addition to luring locals and tourists alike to its newly hospitable banks, the revitalized river has spurred a renaissance of urban develop-

The 1.3-mile stretch of new walkways, landscaping, parks, and public art includes a lock and dam for barge access and links a number of historic, commercial, and cultural institutions back to the river. ment, most notably thus far along the northern Museum Reach, designed by Ford, Powell & Carson and completed in 2009, which extends architect Robert H.H. Hugman’s original River Walk, built in the 1930s, up through Brackenridge Park. That 1.3-mile stretch of new walkways, landscaping, parks, and public art includes a lock and dam for barge access and links a number of historic, commercial, and cultural institutions back to the river, including the San Antonio Museum of Art and the Pearl, the former brewery that’s

1/2 2014

Texas Architect 43


Texas Architect January/February 2014: Ecologies