Monday, July 20, 2009

A canal extension that works

Well, it's not really a canal extension..but rather a Riverwalk extension. San Antonio's recently-finished 1 and 1/3rd-mile extension of the Riverwalk, extends north out of Downtown San Antonio and cuts through a dense area lined with some mixed-use development and the San Antonio Museum of Art. The entire new extension of the Riverwalk is a work of art though, in how underpasses that posed a risk as a potential eyesore were brightened up with public art. A few highlights are.. adorning the Lexington Street underpass are shimmering tiles that catch the light and sort of flitter, colored metal panels under another underpass, a new landscaped landing abutting the San Antonio Museum of Art, and under the I-35 bridge are hanging fish to take away the marr of a highway bridge, and a "grotto" theme at the Camden/Newell intersection. The entire 1.33 mile extension is heavily landscaped, which goes without saying. You can learn a lot more about the Museum Reach segment by checking out this interactive map on the San Antonio Express-News' website.

Here are some pictures taken by popnfresh on SkyscraperCity:

Why was this project a success: The reason that the Museum Reach urban segment of the Riverwalk is such a success is that the right-of-way already existed. The urban fabric already developed around the San Antonio River, and the City of San Antonio is just coming in and giving major aesthetic upgrades to an existing riverfront. The design is innovative and does two things: it incorporates existing "landmarks" along the path, such as the art museum and the Pearl Brewery, which has become a large mixed-use redevelopment project, AND the second reason is that it is innovative in covering up eyesores, such as bridges, and brightening up these dull spaces.

Why copying this would fail in OKC: OKC does not have an existing river that flows through the heart of downtown. There is no neighborhood or even single city block that matured framing a water right of way. The Bricktown Canal is an absolutely brilliant conversion of an alley way into a canal. Where dumpsters, vagrants, and utility lines once were is now an area lined with upscale restaurants, clubs, and the Bricktown haunted house. This is why future planning involving the Bricktown Canal MUST be taken from an "opposite-of-San Antonio" perspective in order to be successful. We have to look for existing right-of-ways that we can easily adapt to become a thin sliver of waterway, and truthfully it isn't a good idea to delve into Core to Shore with the Canal and expect to create a space that matures framing an urban canal. It won't work.

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