In 2012, Overland Partners completed an extensive overhaul of Hughes Warehouse, converting what was formerly an old plumbing building into our new office. The firm worked carefully to preserve the structure and character of the building while minimizing the negative environmental impact.
Our alley underwent a major conversion as part of this overhaul. We chose to bring life to this space as there was no pre-existing vegetation on site. Rededicating this space as a “living space” was a way for us to reclaim the outdoors. The concrete driveway was broken up and replaced with gravel to allow rainwater back into the earth. A rain garden was planted along the brick façade to capture storm water runoff. Picnic tables were installed to provide a comfortable outdoor space to eat and work.
Trees were planted to provide shade and reduce the urban heat island effect, a condition where air and surface temperatures are higher in urban spaces due to heat stored in asphalt and building materials.
In 2015, Overland pushed its commitment to sustainability further when the community garden was built. An outdoor garden would be a way to show community members that producing food in an urban space is possible. Twelve 4’x6’ garden beds were constructed out of lumber.
The rain downspout was modified to reroute rainwater into four 55-gallon rain barrels that were hand-painted by staff purely for the sake of decorating them.
A composting bin was placed in the kitchen to collect our daily coffee grinds and food waste, which are now rerouted to two large 100-gallon composting bins.
By composting our food waste we are mitigating the greenhouse gases in our local environment.
It is now 2018, and we have had several successful and unsuccessful garden ventures. We have done well with tomatoes, cucumbers, and kale, which all made their way into salads and sandwiches in our kitchen.
Our herbs which include rosemary, oregano, dill, thyme, and mint have done exceedingly well.
We’ve recently installed a new drip irrigation system to reduce water waste. The new system has also reduced the watering and maintenance hours.
Maintaining a garden has been a huge learning experience for many of us who have been raised within city limits. What in the world is cotton burr compost? Are these paper towels compostable? How does broccoli grow? Is that a carrot growing or a weed? How do you know when the swiss chard is ready to eat? What are those holes in the cabbage leaves? How many other businesses in this city have gardens? How many community gardens are there in the city?
We are now exploring new vegetation and alternative planting methods to increase our yield. The questions are less about the plants and more about purpose. How could this food better serve our neighbors and community? What if every firm in San Antonio planted a community garden?
How could that mitigate the urban heat island effect? Could we build it so that we might provide to San Antonio Food Bank? Can we convert our beds to support a vertical garden? How much maintenance would a hydroponic garden be?
When we created a garden four years ago, there were no in-house master gardeners, just an optimistic group of designers who had a dream of creating a beautiful, healthy green space in downtown San Antonio. We will continue to push the boundaries of what this garden could be.