Miraflores Neighbors: Brackenridge Park, UIW, and Development
Miraflores’ owners and neighbors are politically powerful and greatly impact this relatively small 4.5 acre piece of land. The Miraflores property has been owned by the City of San Antonio (City) since 2006. By comparison, the City’s Brackenridge Park, to the west and southwest, is 343 acres of public land. The University of the Incarnate Word campus, to the north, is 200 acres. AT&T, at the corner of Broadway and Hildebrand is 10 acres adjacent to the east of Miraflores. And a small 1.3 acre privately owned parcel abuts the garden directly to the south along the River. The hundred year flood plain overlaps all 5 properties, along with the Headwaters owned by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (see my “Celebrations” post). Each property has both shared and competing interests with the others.
UIW Aquires Land
Earlier this month, the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) announced its decision to purchase the AT&T property at Broadway and Hildebrand.
With this purchase, Miraflores will now be bounded on two sides by the UIW. In the past, the UIW has taken an aggressive stance toward Miraflores. As a brief owner of the property from 2000-2006, it destroyed some important features of the garden, and then later submitted a proposal to the City to again manage the property, which was rejected or withdrawn. Hopefully this type of encroachment will not be an issue in the future, given the new leadership of the UIW, and the continuing stewardship of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy (BPC).
The 2017 Brackenridge Master Plan proposes the idea that Brackenridge Park, the UIW and AT&T consider building a joint-use parking garage on the AT&T property, along the eastern border of Miraflores. Parking in the historic northern end of Brackenridge Park has been a problem for years because UIW students park there due to a shortage of parking on their own campus.
Perhaps now that the UIW will control the AT&T property in full, there will be an opportunity for the UIW and Brackenridge Park to consider other parking solutions which leave more open space around Miraflores. Perhaps the ample parking already present on their new property will alleviate the parking problem with no new construction. If a new parking garage is needed, perhaps the UIW can locate it farther away from Miraflores. The concern is the impact that a large parking structure so close to the garden would have on 1) the amount of natural light available to the landscape, and 2) encroachment on the immediate views to and from the garden.
Brackenridge Park Conservancy: New Agreement With the City
In the fall, the Brackenridge Park Conservancy reached a 10-year renewable management agreement with the City of San Antonio. This will allow the BPC to manage scheduling and operations for a number of Brackenridge Park locations, including Miraflores. The agreement also gives the BPC some level of control over naming rights of features in the Park in relation to fundraising, under certain conditions. Initially, the BPC will be focused on the redevelopment of the Sunken Garden Theatre, with a goal of raising a minimum of $500,000.00.
The BPC also announced recently that the delays in work on the walkway at Miraflores are due to the high water table, and that the City hopes to resume work this summer.
Private Development to the South
The small parcel of land to the south of Miraflores, located behind the Boardwalk on Broadway, is currently zoned for high- and low-rise office space, but changes in zoning may be on the horizon, aiming for a residential building.
What Does All This Mean for Miraflores?
Both the UIW and the private development are likely to have an interest in encroaching on Miraflores, but hopefully under the supervision of the BPC the garden will remain protected as an unique historic and culturally important place. On the one hand, Miraflores is considered to be a part of the City of San Antonio’s Brackenridge Park, but on the other hand funding for restoration and renovation of the garden has historically been piecemeal and painfully slow, and Miraflores has not benefited from City bond money directed toward Brackenridge Park. One could argue that Miraflores is deteriorating faster than it is being restored.
In the 2017 Brackenridge Park Master Plan, the San Antonio Conservation Society (SACS) opined that it would like to see funding sought specifically for Miraflores, and asked the BPC if it would consider a joint fundraiser. The SACS also commented that the historic elements in the park should not be “touched,” and that no significant new elements should be added. A Miraflores master plan commissioned in 2007 does introduce significant new features to the landscape, so this is an area that needs to be clarified.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation, a national landscape conservation effort, has also recognized the cultural value of Dr. Urrutia’s garden of Miraflores in conjunction with an ongoing assessment of Brackenridge Park’s cultural heritage.
Hopefully the BPC’s new agreement with the City is a step in the right direction with regard to dedicated fundraising efforts that will allow an effective approach to the restoration of Miraflores.