Entertainment district could recharge downtown, new Centro CEO says

The rate of recovery for the Alamo City’s downtown was 68%.

Downtown San Antonio skyline photo taken from the Thompson San Antonio River Walk hotel in July 2021. (Julie Moreno, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – A more than decade-long push to draw residents and businesses to San Antonio’s center city was disrupted as COVID-19 emptied downtowns across the U.S. and shifted the narrative about the Alamo City’s urban core.

Now, as San Antonio looks to relaunch that recruitment the city must also entice the people and companies that have already staked a claim in the heart of the city to stay, says new Centro San Antonio CEO Trish DeBerry.

An investment in entertainment-oriented development may prove the secret elixir for downtown San Antonio, she contends.

“There’s a real opportunity to create some momentum behind a central entertainment district. That could inspire the businesses to come,” DeBerry said.

There has been plenty of talk about a potential new downtown ballpark for the San Antonio Missions that backers believe could drive such activity and investment.

Meanwhile, the ongoing expansion of UTSA’s downtown campus could lure more residents and businesses downtown.

“We’ve got to get to a place where we figure out what the new definition regarding San Antonio’s downtown is,” DeBerry said. “I think we have to place an emphasis on education and entertainment.”

San Antonio must also address some more urgent challenges downtown, including a spike in homelessness, stemming from the pandemic.

“There’s a big emphasis on what we’re doing regarding housing for the homeless. It is not something we’re going to solve overnight,” DeBerry said.

San Antonio has also seen a flight of downtown workers. One of the more visible exits was USAA, which last year said it was vacating its center city offices.

Codeup left downtown for a less expensive and more suburban setting.

A June 2023 report from the Institute of Governmental Studies examined the pandemic recovery trajectories for dozens of U.S. cities, including San Antonio. The rate of recovery for the Alamo City’s downtown was 68%.

Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between KSAT and the San Antonio Business Journal.

Click here to read the full story in the San Antonio Business Journal.