Reshaping the River Walk: Crockett Street Redevelopment

 

At the direction of four different owners and based on the innovative design of three renowned architects (Overland Partners, Kell Munoz Wigodsky Inc., and Jack Peterson), G. W. Mitchell Construction was commissioned to complete a highly complex street and River Walk renovation along the 200 block of West Crocket Street. The scope of the project was to remove and replace the existing street with an elevated road to create river level shell space that would give three consecutive buildings direct access to the San Antonio River Walk. The project also included handicap access, the addition of large planters and the complete replacement of the south bank wall and walkway of the River Walk.

In September of 2000, G.W. Mitchell Construction began carefully dismantling the historic Hugman wall as well as the demolition and excavation of the existing 200 block of West Crockett Street down to river level. While the street was being excavated, G.W. Mitchell was also completely reconstructing 225 feet of the historic River Walk. The existing riverbank wall was badly deteriorated and several of the Hugman River Walk panels had failed or uplifted. As part of their efforts to correct these deficiencies, Mitchell employed skilled craftsmen to meticulously reconstruct these historic elements to match the original.

One of the largest challenges Mitchell faced in this project involved temporarily damming the river in order to replace the river bank wall. A coffer dam was constructed by the Mitchell team allowing boat traffic and the river to flow uninterrupted on one side while the River Walk was being constructed on the other side. All of this work had to be synchronized with the annual draining of the river in January 2001 in order for the coffer dam to be removed while the river was down. Despite numerous changes in the river draining schedule, the wall was completed ahead of time and the dam was completely removed during the twenty-four hour period while the river level was reduced to one foot. Once the river wall was complete, a solid foundation was established for the River Walk. New concrete panels were poured to match the originals, and the Hugman panels removed during demolition were reinstalled to create a seamless historic walk.

To further improve accessibility, a unique elevator and clock tower was installed. This distinguishing feature was recognized by the local A.I.A. chapter as an “Exemplary Urban Revitalization Effort.” Throughout construction, irreplaceable elements of the existing area, including the massive Cypress trees and historic structures, were carefully preserved and further enhanced by the new elements and configurations of the space. The project was successfully completed while maintaining the historic and aesthetic value of this section of the San Antonio River. The completion was celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony on December 3, 2001 with three former Mayors and the current Mayor in attendance. This project has taken a dormant, underutilized section of downtown San Antonio and given it the life it much needed to become a significant part of the success of the San Antonio River Walk.

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