A year ago, Current beer columnist Travis Poling wrote up the news that Alamo Beer Company was making for a new pub on the city's east side, opening his dispatch with the words, "The view from the Hays Street Bridge tells stories for those willing to see them."
Of course, history and the lessons thereof tell millions of stories, versions and interpretations of seemingly "singular" events take on myriad unique forms depending on the vantage point from which they are viewed and lived. And so it is with the Hays Street Bridge debate today.
While Travis homed in on the fact that "20 years of tireless effort by conservationists and neighborhood activists" had saved the bridge, a vital corridor linking tourist-saturated downtown with the city's less economically vibrant Eastside, his report posits the merits of a proposal by Eugene Simor and Alamo Beer, who hopes to build a brewery on city land on the opposite side of the bridge from land he already owns. “Locals and tourists alike will want to visit the brewery, not just for the tour, but for drinks and meals as well,” Simor is quoted as saying.But those who labored to save the bridge in the first place, and their supporters, are quickly rounding up signatures to petition the San Antonio City Council to stop the process of declaring the city park-land as "surplus" to be donated to Simor for his project. You can read the letter from the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group and the Eastside Historic Preservation Group below. The effort to declare the land surplus will be heard again before the city's planning commission Wednesday and is expected to be taken up by the City Council later in the summer. ---
Public Views, Not Private Brews
It's a Matter of Trust and an Inner City Quality of Life Issue!In 1998, the Hays Street Restoration Group, a diverse team of San Antonians dedicated to historic preservation and community revitalization, came together to convince the city, state, and federal government to restore the Hays Street Bridge, which played an important role in providing access to the Eastside of San Antonio from downtown. The group was successful in securing Texas Department of Transportation funding and in raising $200,000 in matching funds to restore the bridge, which was opened to the public in July of 2010, as part of the city’s hike and bike route from the Museum Reach of the river through the eastside to the Salado Creek watershed. As part of the restoration process, the City of San Antonio in October of 2007 accepted the donation of a property on Cherry Street valued on the Bexar County Tax Rolls at $250,180. The Dawson brothers, former owners of the Budweiser beer distributorship that was located on the Eastside, donated the property for uses that would compliment a restored Historic Hays Street Bridge. Today, we find the completion of the restoration process threatened by the Alamo Beer Company, which wants the City of San Antonio to designate the donated land as “surplus” so that it can sell it to them for the purpose of building a microbrewery and rooftop restaurant/beer garden that would connect to the bridge. Construction of a 40-foot-tall, 20,000-square-foot brew house would obstruct the distinctive and beautiful views offered by the Hays Street Bridge. More significantly, it would violate both the spirit of the discussions between the Restoration Group and the Dawson family and the vision of the completed restoration project, which imagined the bridge as a place for hikers, bikers, firework watchers, birthday parties, and community members to gather together to celebrate events and gatherings. By contrast, the development plan for the Alamo Beer Company imagines the bridge as a place for “small convention receptions, corporate meetings, chamber of commerce mixers, fundraising walks or other similar functions.” It is clear that development plans mean for the bridge to serve commercial, corporate, and tourist ends, rather than local residents. Founded by Eugene Simor in 2003, the Alamo Beer Company played no part in the rescue mission for the Hays Street Bridge or in acquiring the donated land. The 2-acre lots adjacent to the land in question are owned by Simor and could just as easily be used for his proposed brewery. It should be noted that Simor also has two failed projects under his belt. Eugene Simor spearheaded the Friedrich Building project on East Commerce Street, which never managed to attract customers or retailers despite collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in public dollars. Simor’s investment group also failed in the Merchant's Ice development project on East Houston Street. Despite this track record, the City of San Antonio City Council continues to grant development proposals to Simor. The actions of the planning commission and City Council demonstrate their disregard for public space and public process in selling the land around Hays Street Bridge for commercial exploitation. A community park at Hays Street Bridge will serve as an asset to the citizens of San Antonio and to the residents of the Eastside. A microbrewery/beer garden, on the other hand, serves as an example of the same developer-driven politics that have long threatened quality of life and just forms of public participation for inner-city residents of San Antonio. Join the Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group in efforts to defend plans for the Dawson Park located near the Hays Street Bridge:
— Hays St Bridge Restoration Group and the Eastside Historic Preservation Group