Originally published by the San Antonio Business Journal

By Katie Burke

When architect Bob Shemwell sits down to plan any urban-focused project, he doesn’t just consider what needs to be solved for a particular property or building. He looks at what needs to be addressed in the entire area, and how certain design elements will provide solutions.

“We’re always looking to see how a building can answer more than one question,” said Shemwell, a principal with Overland Partners. “Yes, do what it needs to do to make it successful. But what are the other problems that exist, and how can we help facilitate some connections?”

Shemwell is the lead architect for Keller Henderson’s Floodgate project, a proposed mixed-use development slated for the stretch of East Commerce Street between the river to the west and North St. Mary’s to the east.

The existing buildings on the site block any movement or connection between the river and East Commerce, an issue Shemwell identified as one of the property’s first problems.

So instead of creating an architectural plan that considered only the economic goals, Overland Partners took the project in a direction that is expected to redefine downtown San Antonio’s design standards.

“The traditional response for sites on the river front is to fill up every inch of the site and maximize as much square footage as you can possibly get at the river level,” Shemwell said. “But we wanted to come up with a concept that might entail sacrificing some of that square footage, but save value closer to the ground level.”

So the firm’s design blew through the project’s first level to create a passageway from the river to East Commerce Street. The pasillo concept not only connects one side of the site to the other, but it also creates more value for future ground-floor retailers with more frontage, a diverse mix of tenants and a culture Shemwell said would help amplify the area’s reurbanization.

“There is a velocity and a pace at which things are happening, and it’s all going on simultaneously,” he said. “In fairly short order we will have Floodgate, the Canopy hotel, everything in River North, Hemisfair, Frost Tower. … All of it will come up and create a critical mass that’s very powerful.”

While San Antonio’s urban core has picked up steam in terms of interest, proposed developments and construction, design will play a critical role in how the area redefines itself.

Shemwell said the city has always been comfortable with a slow, steady pace, but the influx of activity will put the city’s urban revitalization “into turbo charge.”

“How can what we’re doing make everything else around it better, and how does it fit into an area with a lot of surrounding context” Shemwell asked. “We believe physical transformations create human ones, and right now, San Antonio is in a powerful physical reurbanization.”

The original story can be found here.