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DT Development San Antonio

San Antonio’s downtown in search of a new vision

July 24, 2022

Originally Published in San Antonio Report

The recent release of Tech Bloc’s report on the state of the information technology industry in San Antonio was a wake-up call for those committed to building a more vibrant and prosperous downtown.

Job growth in the sector is happening just about everywhere but downtown. That was no surprise, really, but hearing it from Tech Bloc CEO David Heard, once one of the leading voices supporting the emerging tech district along East Houston Street, has forced other boosters to face post-pandemic reality.

Those of us wishing for a resurgence in the central business district have come to realize there will not be a “return to normal.” Bosses ordering workers back to the office risk losing those workers. Skilled professionals have far more options than they enjoyed pre-pandemic. Tech workers are no longer the only ones who can work wherever a Wi-Fi signal is found.

It would be premature to organize a wake for downtown San Antonio, but nearly three years after former Mayor Julián Castro’s Decade of Downtown came to an end, it’s time to shape a new vision for the downtown bordered to the north by River North and the Pearl, and to the south by Southtown.

That vision, I believe, is going to have to be built on a housing-first foundation. Start with a name change: the central business district, it now seems, is a last-century chamber of commerce construct.

Centro CEO Matt Brown said Friday that downtown housing is one of his organization’s three top priorities.

“There is the hen and there is the egg,” Brown said. “In this instance, the hen is residential housing, and the eggs that follow are retail, business and commerce.”

San Antonio’s oldest urban streets were once home to the people who founded this town and eventually built it into a city. The Decade of Downtown set what seemed like ambitious goals at the time to add 7,500 residential units to the urban core, a number that was comfortably exceeded.

Downtown San Antonio needs a new initiative with a new goal for significantly expanding new residential housing, along with the necessary public incentives to spark the free market and make it actually happen.

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Connie Garza

TACTICAL PLANNING COORDINATOR

Connie is a native San Antonian with roots planted deeply on San Antonio’s Southside. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Global Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Passionate about building strong communities, Connie loves acting as a connector to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and people to help each other reach their goals and work together. She works inbetween the Cultural Placemaking team and the Mainstreet Economic Development team, bringing vibrancy and support to urban core businesses to make downtown the place to be. When not at work, you can usually find her at the local plant nursery buying another plant, exploring new cafes/breweries, and spending time with family.

Priscilla Lopez

EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT

Priscilla or “P.Lo” as her teammates affectionately call her, has 20 years of corporate administrative experience. Priscilla attended The University of San Antonio with a focus on Business Administration. In her role as office “fixer,” she handles everything from communications and relationship management to IT sleuthing. On weekends you can find her enjoying a Truly poolside. She lives the vegan lifestyle and is  a proud member of the Peleton community.

Michael Cirlos

JEDI CAMERAMAN

Michael began his studies and volunteer work at Webster University Thailand with a focus on international relations and Buddhism. After returning to San Antonio and graduating from UTSA, Michael began photographing and telling the stories of people in Downtown San Antonio to help connect and increase awareness of our vibrant urban culture. Michael’s work has appeared in several news media organizations, and has produced digital content for small- and large-scale marketing campaigns for Red Bull, COSA Department of Arts and Culture, World Heritage Office, National Park Service, and others. Michael is a former Pecha Kucha San Antonio Speaker, best-selling author at Trinity University Press, entrepreneur, and adventurer.

JanIe Garza

OFFICE MANAGER

Janie is a native of Corpus Christi, TX and has made San Antonio her home since 2012. Her 15+ years’ experience allows her to serve a broad range of functions that allow the organization to operate efficiently, including, accounts receivable/payable, record management, information technology, office management, and assisting with human resources. Outside of the office she enjoys spending time with her family, visiting local art museums, and enjoying a German beer in Southtown.

Matt Sirgo

DIRECTOR OF STORYTELLING

Matt graduated from Texas Tech University in 2016 with a Dual Major in Media Strategies and Honors Arts & Letters with a minor in Italian (Benvenuto a tutti!). Matt oversees the marketing, public relations, and digital content for Centro. After sharing the story of Downtown San Antonio on digital channels, he enjoys creating TikToks about LGBTQ+ media. His mug graces a Fiesta Mural on the St. Mary’s Strip just north of Downtown. You can’t miss it. 

Elizabeth Burt

DIRECTOR OF URBAN ACTIVATION + PLAY

Liz is a passionate underutilized space evangelist known for collaboration matchmaking + play based troublemaking (snow, pumpkins, and Parisian mimes included). She graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Public Policy studying Public Administration (#BirdsUp)! More recently, she oversaw the award winning Activate Houston Street Initiative, a placemaking action plan to reinvigorate the historic pedestrian corridor in the heart of Downtown, which is recognized as a Best Practice in Public Space Management by the International Downtown Association, for which she is also a proud Emerging Leader Fellow.

Jacqueline Lucio

DIRECTOR OF PID OPERATIONS

Jacque is a longtime downtowner with a deep passion for community service. She oversees Centro’s Clean & Safe and Homeless Outreach services, which aim to create a more beautiful, welcoming, inclusive, and hospitable downtown. For nearly two decades, Jacque has lived in downtown San Antonio and has been actively involved in the transformation of the urban core. Through her work with nonprofits, local government, and news media, she’s continually focused on championing more sustainable, diverse, and equitable communities. Jacque has led efforts to support asylum seekers, served as communications director for City Council District 5, and served in public affairs role for Clear Channel Outdoor San Antonio. Jacque studied Mass Communications and Mexican-American Studies at UTSA.

Sarah Esserlieu Khalil

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR

Sarah is a passionate urbanist who has spent the majority of her career on downtown revitalization efforts. Downtown is the best part of any city where you can find the finest history, culture, life, and beauty. Sarah has a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of California, San DiegoSarah enjoys visiting small local businesses, enjoying foodie culture, cooking, hiking, and visiting the cities of the world. 

Andi Rodriguez

VICE PRESIDENT OF CULTURAL PLACEMAKING

Andi is a long-time urban champion and leads Centro ‘people projects which tell our stories and bring us joy, such as Centro’s Art Everywhere and Zona Cultural. Serving on the Leadership Council of Urban Land Institute, she is a former city Planning Commissioner, Founding Chair of the Hemisfair Conservancy, Co-founder of Power of Preservation/PROM, former Chair of the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women and immediate past Chair of Leadership San Antonio. Andi considers herself a servant leader; she has an MS in Architecture/Urban Planning, and enjoys advocating for the unifying power of art, history, and public space.

KANDICE PERKINS

FINANCIAL DIRECTOR

Kandice is a Sunnyvale, CA native and has made San Antonio her home since 2014She graduated from University of Argosy in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and continued to complete her Master’s in Business Administration from University of Phoenix 2020. She has worked in downtown San Antonio for years, bringing 15+ years of accounting experience to the organization and has been tasked with promoting and developing the city’s urban core. When not at the office, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, managing her family’s businesses, and enjoys cooking and baking.  

The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs 

MATT BROWN

PRESIDENT AND CEO

Matt is the lucky guy that gets to lead a team of passionate placemakers who work every day to make downtown San Antonio more beautiful, playful, prosperous, and welcoming. Since starting his career as an attorney, Matt accumulated 25+ years’ worth of experience in the private sector by founding play and creative companies; consulting for start-ups and Fortune 500s in strategy, innovation, and leadership; and serving as president and C-level executive for Scholastic, Klutz and LeapFrog, among others. Directly prior to moving to San Antonio, he was the Economic Development Director and Interim Land Use Director for Santa Fe, NM.  He and his daughter have visited 15 state capitals on their way to all 50!