SAN ANTONIO -

In his annual State of the City address San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro told hundreds of residents that San Antonio is a city on the rise.

“From every corner of the nation, as well as the world, people are taking notice of San Antonio in a way they haven’t in a long time,” Castro said. “Our graduation rate is up, our unemployment rate is down, our real estate market is up, our teen pregnancy rate is down.” 

The mayor highlighted recent accomplishments in education and economic growth during his annual address.

“The first two Pre-K centers opened up 2013 and have welcomed 675 4-year-olds throughout the community. We will continue our march to ensure that we have the best prepared, most well-educated, young people in all of the state of Texas,” he said.

Castro said the city’s economy is growing, and a focus on the energy industry will highlight 2014.

CPS Energy will partner with OCI Solar Power to produce the largest solar manufacturing facility in entire the U.S., a venture Castro said would bring more than 800 new jobs to San Antonio.

USAA also plans to open an office at 1 Riverwalk Plaza, bringing 150 employees downtown.

Despite his optimistic tone Castro said the city still faces many challenges.

He’s hopeful that the recent designation as a Federal Promise Zone can help alleviate poverty on the city’s East Side and improve education.

He also acknowledged that something must be done to curtail the rising costs of public safety.

“As we go into the budget process this fall we will continue to make the tough choices necessary to tighten are belt. We are not Detroit. Our pension system is in good health and we have managed resources well,” he said. “I have told the unions I hope that together at the negotiating table we can find ways to put reasonable cost controls on health care and other costs in our public safety budget.”

DECADE OF DOWNTOWN

One of the pillars of the mayor’s address was the Decade of Downtown.

Castro said residential developments in the city’s center show the efforts to revitalize downtown are progressing.

“The Decade of Downtown is happening. New housing units are opening up, people are moving downtown, jobs are coming downtown,” he said.

Some business owners argue that the city’s efforts to revamp downtown San Antonio have had minimal impact, and Castro admitted that there are still many challenges to face.

“Downtown parking is one of them,” he said. “Some of the streets, and the fact that we need more employees downtown.”

Darryl Byrd, CEO and president of SA2020, said officials are on the right track and the key to overcoming those challenges is through further investment in the urban core.

“The denser something is the more attractive it is. As we continue to increase our housing density downtown, our retail office density downtown, more people working there, it will be more attractive to the world around it,” Byrd said.

The mayor warned that inaction would turn San Antonio into somewhat of a geographic doughnut.

“If we didn’t have these downtown incentives in place (we wouldn’t) see these new housing units go up, and some employers moving downtown. Downtown would be hollowing out,” he said.