6 May 2013

Extant Assets - Rivercenter Mall, San Antonio, TX

San Antonio was another one of those cities with which I almost instantaneously fell in love. I first flew down on an old Delta 727 from Dallas after a several hour delay on Christmas Eve 1998. I was there to spend the holiday with my sister and her family. She was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base which was located right next to the old Kelly Air Force Base. The latter of these facilities was home to most of the military branch's Lockheed C-5 fleet. So there were huge airplanes, one thing that I love. First point secured. Then we made the trip downtown where I got to experience the vibrant nightlife and the festive atmosphere of the Riverwalk. Another point awarded. And right smack in the middle of it all was a large, urban shopping facility integrated onto and, in places, above the San Antonio River. Point three. I was in love.

 
Rivercenter Mallmanac ca. 1998. View the full PDF version here.

The Rivercenter and downtown as a whole made quite the impression on me. The waters of the San Antonio River actually ran through the building, which was adorned in the colors and the styles of the southwest. The promenades created a serpentine maze of both indoor and outdoor plazas where the mall met the water, with the cobblestone walkways and arched crossings integrated seamlessly into the design of the complex. During the daytime, there was more of a family atmosphere as my nephew joined us for the standard tourist fare, which included a long walk along the river's banks and the required barge tour. But at night, the area took on a completely different personality. Bars and dance clubs lined the previously family friendly environs of the riverwalk. Multi-colored Christmas Lights cascaded from the top of the trees nearly all the way down to the water. One particular evening was capped with a night of dancing at Polly Esther's where my sister got into a shoving match with some drunk douchebag who kept bumping into us.

 
L- The Rivercenter viewed from the top of the Tower of the Americas. R- The Marriott Rivercenter.

The Rivercenter opened in 1988 featuring Dillard's and the city's first Lord & Taylor. The building housing Dillard's was the half million square foot, century old flagship store for San Antonio based Joske's. Just before the mall opened, however, and as renovations were being completed that would join the older building to the new mall, Dillard's took over all of the venerable old San Antonio stores' locations. But only about half of the Joske's space was used by its new owners, allowing the rest of the historic building to be turned into additional mall space and an AMC Cineplex. Since the Rivercenter's opening, Foley's has taken over the Lord and Taylor spot before being acquired by and renamed Macy's while Dillard's closed their mall store in 2008. Today, the entire building that once housed Joske's is slated for redevelopment. This could include a luxury hotel to compliment the existing 1000 room, 38 story Marriott located at the other end of the mall.

 
L- The Rivercenter in the early 2000s. R- The Rivercenter as of this writing.

I'm normally one who avoids kitschy tourist spots that most mainstream travelers like to frequent. In fact, I've made it a point to avoid places like San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf and Chicago's Navy Pier despite their popularity. But there are some spots that may fall into that kitschy category which still have to be seen. One, in my opinion, is the Las Vegas Strip. Another is here, San Antonio's Riverwalk. I made a point to see what would become a template for many other cities' downtown redevelopment plans every time I visited, and will hopefully see it again sometime soon.

Rivercenter's official website

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