‘If These Walls Could Talk’: Stalled plans for apartments, business give way to mini mural city

Essex Modern City is home to multiple wall paintings

The space known as Essex Modern City has become a mini mural city, almost by accident.
The space known as Essex Modern City has become a mini mural city, almost by accident.

SAN ANTONIO – If all had gone as Kris Feldmann and his architectural firm, CREO, had expected, there would be apartment buildings and businesses on an 8-acre plot of land east of downtown San Antonio.

Instead, their “Plan B” has taken shape, much to the delight of art lovers.

The space known as Essex Modern City has become a mini mural city, almost by accident.

Words of wisdom adorn some walls, while others contain more whimsical paintings. (KSAT 12 News)

“Due to some kinds of challenges with the railroad, we threw events out here,” Feldmann said. “We started bringing street artists out every second Saturday, food trucks and inviting the community.”

Feldmann says noise concerns from trains passing by on railroad tracks near Essex Street and Interstate 37 have stalled the multi-use project.

The architectural firm where he serves as design principal originally had been hired to draw up those plans.

Before the pandemic broke out, they regularly had been planning parties and painting events.

What started with just a few street artists painting a handful of murals grew well beyond their expectations.

Now, there are several dozen of those paintings on free-standing walls, offering artwork for everyone.

Some contain portraits of people while others contain words of wisdom or whimsical characters.

The free-standing walls contain art for all tastes. (KSAT 12 News)

That plot of land had drawn attention in the past for a completely different reason. “The previous owner remanufactured pallets and this site was known for some pretty massive fires over the years,” Feldmann said.

Some of those became the subject of stories that aired on KSAT 12 News.

These days, the only things lighting up are the faces of visitors to the site.

Essex Modern City offers hours where art lovers can visit for free.

Feldmann says while the property owner has not given up completely on the idea of the multi-use project, any future plans will incorporate the artwork.

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About the Authors:

Katrina Webber was born and raised in Queens, NY, but after living in Gulf Coast states for the past decade, she feels right at home in Texas.

Tim has been a photojournalist and video editor at KSAT since 1998. He came to San Antonio from Lubbock, where he worked in TV and earned his bachelor's degree in Electronic Media and Communication from Texas Tech University. Tim has won a handful of awards and has earned a master's in Strategic Communication and Innovation from Tech as well.