There’s this quiet, almost collective groan out of City Hall when talk turns to our largest-ever bond package starting to take shape. Everyone’s got their hands out, palms up, seeking cash just a month after city officials wrapped marathon budget sessions — sessions filled with community groups and organizations pleading for funds. Hoping to ride Mayor Julian Castro’s framework-for-the-future plan, those who packed a series of bond committee hearings over the past month insist their projects — from refurbished baseball diamonds to multi-million-dollar redevelopments deals — are “SA2020-aligned” in cult-like fashion. “Everybody’s eying this thing like it’s a fucking ATM,” quipped one city official.
Citizen bond committees, handpicked by council members in their respective districts, are now wading through a sea of drainage, streets, parks, and facilities projects, choosing which ones deserve cash before the final package goes out to voters for approval in May. City staffers have already told Council they want to avoid the “peanut-butter approach” of spreading cash thinly across districts, instead targeting large-scale projects with “citywide impact” (read: downtown, decade of). And at $596 million, this year there’s more proposed wealth to spread around (the City’s 2007 bond weighed in at $550 million).
As expected, the majority, some $470 million, is slated for much needed street, sidewalk, drainage, and bridge repairs, the meat and potatoes of local government. For the past month, local organizations, community groups, and residents have packed bond committee hearings hoping to influence how the last $65 million for park improvements and $61 million for facilities and community initiatives should be spent. Here are some of the big asks:
HemisFair Park $30 million
In line with COSA’s “citywide impact” mission, the city has slated major cash for major redevelopment efforts at “San Antonio’s front porch,” as staffers with the HemisFair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation continue to call it. City recommendation calls for $15 million for the park’s facelift, another $15 million to redevelop key roadways in and around HemisFair.
San Antonio Botanical Garden $14 million
Early on, COSA staff recommended the Garden get $1.2 million, a tiny sliver of the $14 million the San Antonio Botanical Society wants to help push the Garden’s master plan forward, including educational centers and an expanded children’s vegetable garden.
Southwest School of Art $6.8 million
Southwest’s School is requesting $6.8 million to fund a parking garage and future student housing complex as part of an expanded campus on the Museum Reach of the river, home to the school’s future BFA program downtown — roughly 16 percent of the project’s projected total cost.
Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center $5 million
Center staff are seeking $5 million to fund half of a $10 million project to restore the area’s historic pharmacy on the West Side as well as to help jump start the organization’s planned community culinary center.
Hardberger Park $10 million
A hallmark of the city’s 2007 bond program, which allocated over $30 million to buy the property, Hardberger Park proponents are hoping to get another $10 million, though the city has recommended only $3 million this time. Supporters with the Phil Hardberger Park Conservancy say the cash would help get the planned Urban Ecology Center up and running.
Sunken Garden $10 million
Majestic and Empire theater steward Arts Center Enterprises (ACE) wants the city to pump $10 million into its $20 million endeavor to turn the neglected open-air theater into a top-tier performing arts space.
Go to sanantonio.gov/2012bond to see more on the city’s bond committees, which will start meeting again the week of November 14 at the Cliff Morton Development & Business Services Center on 1901 South Alamo.