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Designing a desirable downtown

Designing a desirable downtown
GREGORY RIPPS La Vernia Municipal Development District Executive Director Jennifer Kolbe shows an artist’s concept of a future downtown La Vernia Nov. 14 to La Vernia City Councilman John Richter. Students at the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Architecture presented some concepts and recommendations after being approached by the city for assistance.

The city of La Vernia may have a facelift in its future. The La Vernia Municipal Development District (MDD) offered two presentations Nov. 14 that recommend steps to rejuvenate the downtown area.

Mayor Robert Gregory explained at the 5:30 p.m. presentation that he had approached the College of Architecture at the University of Texas at San Antonio to make a study and offer recommendations. The college contracted with the Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research, which incorporated both citizen input and professional input to complete the project.

Screen projections and architectural concepts mounted on poster boards illustrated proposals. A key recommendation would be realigning Seguin and Bluebonnet roads so that they would converge on Chihuahua Street in a straight line. Ironically, if the proposal materializes, the current city hall building would be demolished. However, the presentation also recommends relocating city hall nearby to a new multi-use, three-story building with a town square.

Gregory said that he was part of one of two breakout sessions sharing ideas as part of the study and was amazed that everyone seemed to be “targeting the same things.”

MDD Executive Director Jennifer Kolbe, who led the presentation, said the recommendations looked at highlighting La Vernia’s strengths, improving areas that are weak, capitalizing on opportunities and reducing threats. The primary threat, she explained, was annexation by the city of San Antonio of unincorporated areas near La Vernia.

Kolbe emphasized that the major change was realigning Seguin and Bluebonnet roads and creating “a center for events [where there is] currently no open space” near their intersection with Chihuahua. In addition, city hall would be collocated with other public activities.

“A civic center, library, and learning center are all possibilities,” she said.

Other key recommendations included improvements to Chihuahua Street to keep it a ”thriving business district” while maintaining its historical character.

Gregory noted that all the recommendations were “very conceptual.”

“A lot of dollars need to be available before this comes to fruition,” he said. “We can’t make it work if the public is not behind it. A lot of things have to come together.”

The mayor suggested holding a town hall meeting in January.

Look for more coverage of this in future issues of the La Vernia News.

Kolbe urged citizens to send their comments to her or the mayor or to stop at the MDD office across Chihuahua Street from City Hall.

City council members, and about 10 citizens attended the evening presentation prior to the city council meeting. A large number attended the earlier presentation.

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