Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Down on the Boardwalk"

Imagine strolling along the South Padre bayside on a beautiful boardwalk, a margarita or wine in hand, checking out the sunset, the cool art, the food, and just hanging out. The music is [relatively] soft; the lights are low; life is good. Why can’t we have that?

Good question. The area between Palm Street and Fisherman’s Wharf would make an excellent boardwalk, being in the commercial district. In fact, there are a couple of folks who have thought of it before although nothing has happened. There are a ton of reasons why not but let’s be positive.

Look what they did down there in Kemah, Texas, which used to be a sleepy old fishing town. What they did was a little extreme but that boardwalk brings in millions of dollars in revenue because somebody had the foresight to completely revitalize the area, being partly funded by companies such as the restaurants, amusement parks, and hotels. I think the vision for SPI would be a little more laid back than Kemah, and one would hope a lot more fun (sorry, Kemah).

What would it take? That’s a pretty good question because many of the local commercial establishments have built out over the water. All that would have to go bye-bye, including the docks, piers, and bulkheads. One of the more expensive parts of the project would be building a brand new bulkhead part of the way down the bayside, of course to some kind of design - curves, angles, and straight as an arrow are the main options. The boardwalk it then attached to the bulkhead and in some places could be free-standing. The boardwalk at the Convention Center is a fairly good model of the construction method, with its piers and cement boards that won’t rot.

While many communities provide for lighting and some amenities, the waterside can be leased or allowed to be developed as finger piers as well, a source of maintenance revenue. These waterside accesses are usually gated and locked because having people on leased or private docks especially at night is a major liability. I can see renting watercraft and having a charter fisherman drop-off and pickup area where possible, though, and maybe even a nature area.

The big attraction would be Friday nights in the summer, of course, when the fireworks go off at 9:15. Should be nice.


sillysand said...

I have been dreaming of that very thing!

Pedro said...

Wonderful idea, real tough sell this late in the game.

Sam said...

I don't think its all that impossible, since the area was built in the mid-80's and is now about 30 years old. I would simply ask a person to walk the waterside and then maybe take a boat trip along that stretch of waterfront. In many cases, the bulkheads, structures, and infrastructure is literally falling down. Why some of the old joints were not condemned years ago is rather mystifying.

Not only are they in poor shape structurally, but many are extreme fire risks - I have no idea if the Fire Marshall has ever inspected them. I suppose the operators can eek along until things literally fall into the bay or they burn down, being "grandfathered," but one has to admit the place looks like hell, however nice and funky it appears from the street side.

I can't wait to hear folks object because this might be "eminent domain" for the sake of "urban revitalization." Folks, that is not what I'm suggesting. What I do want is for the local operators and business owners to actually want to fix things up. Think about it, that's the entertainment district and it is worth hundreds of million dollars over the years ... it makes sense to invest in the future sometimes.


Lucinda said...

I think we could do this way better than Kemah did and it would be a huge attraction. I think its existence would also help curb the cruising issues they keep going on about. Make it wide enough for venders and buskers and other fun stuff!

Sam said...

Vendors and buskers and bears, oh my!

mleahy said...

Hi All! I, as you know have looked at just that in the past couple of years. I don't think it is anything that can't be solved with $20,000,000-$40,000,000. Seriously, by the time the land is purchased (at fair market value, of course), P & Z is paid off (or an election is held to re-zone), environmental studies and traffic studies, not to mention everything else under the sun are completed. You could build four high rise condos (300-400 units) priced from $500,000 on up and make your money back much faster.

I am just playing devil's advocate. Name one developer that would not choose the easy way, with condos that pay off much faster with less liability. I can't think of one. Why? Because the Island tourism is too seasonal... Kemah, is very close to a major metropolitan center (Houston) with much higher wages than found in San Antonio, or anywhere south. Kemah is also a short drive. I have read on the blog before where it is said that Winter Texans do not spend a great deal of money (can;t count on them).

I have studied the logistics of doing just that, a boardwalk. The Island is already conjested in every way. Parking is attrocious, a boardwalk would only make it worse. Nice thoughts, but let's take a reality check here, really......