District 1 City Councilman Diego Bernal said soon the city will look at the most aggressive policy it has ever seen on empty buildings. On Friday he outlined that promise at his second State of the Center City address.
As TPR has reported, San Antonio has a downtown vacancy rate of 29 percent. That figure is 19 percent citywide, which is why Bernal said he will be introducing a bold measure to take care of empty buildings.
"Our city is not a safe deposit box for your investments," he told a sold-out crowd at the Briscoe Museum. "That is not what a downtown is for, and it is shameful that we have 30 or more buildings just like that."
Bernal said that he's looking at strengthening all neighborhoods by eliminating empty buildings. The councilman also said he's focusing on parks, redevelopment of neighborhoods, the future of Alamo Plaza, and encouraging people to be a part of the city.
"When I'm selling downtown on folks, I admit that we have a ways to go," Bernal said. "We'd by lying to ourselves if we didn't acknowledge some of the problems that we have downtown. And yes, there's been a fair amount of development on the outskirts of downtown, but that development is making its way to the core."
The councilman boasted that millions of visitors make the trek to the city each year, that they spend billions of dollars and raise economic activity. That, combined with residents, employees and a booming culture of students downtown are all making San Antonio great, he said.
One other major area of focus is the Alamo. Late last year, Bernal initiated a request to study what's best for the Alamo and the grounds surrounding it. This week, the City Council approved the formation of a new committee that will pave the future of the site. He told the crowd during his address that he's shooting for national and international reverence, and that it will get (finally) get done. Committee assignments from the council members are due to the City Clerk next week. The 21-member panel, which will also be comprised of appointments by the mayor, will move forward with guiding principles and an overall vision.