Many have heard the Austin slogan, “Keep Austin Weird”. The coming New Braunfels City Comprehensive Plan is entitled “Envision New Braunfels - A Special Place By Design.” This slogan brings to mind what most New Braunfelsers desire, and that is to keep those uniquely New Braunfels icons sustainable today AND tomorrow.
Sustainability is the hard part. As we all know, cities are like living organisms: either growing or dying. Nothing stays the same. Roads deteriorate, bridges become unstable and capacity increases on them, buildings grow old and in need of repair and to be revitalized, cost of government services grows, and on and on. Consumer tastes and desires change over time as well, creating need for changes to existing infrastructure, be it buildings or businesses.
So, can we continue to have it both ways? I hope so. For more than 173 years, New Braunfels has figured out how to maintain and sustain its economy and infrastructure. You can still cross the Gruene low water bridge as in years gone by, but now on a safer structure that looks great. You can now navigate the Seguin Avenue railroad underpass near the post office in four lanes, instead two. It looks great and does not flood as frequently as the original underpass.
A public open house was held at the Civic Convention Center (remodeled in 2008 from the original 1971 structure) on May 1 regarding the San Antonio Street Bridge project. This “narrow one lane each way” bridge over the Comal River is in need of stabilization and additional capacity. Walking across the old bridge the last two MLK marches gave me the unique and scary perspective to look straight down from the middle of the paved roadway and clearly see the water below. The bridge recently sustained another direct hit by an automobile, one of many reported each year.
The proposed enhancement project creates a wider and safer structure for all while maintaining its unique design, especially underneath the roadway. And, best of all, it is practically free to local taxpayers because the federal highway system via TxDOT is paying for it. While figuring out how to coordinate recreation below during the summertime remains, a collapse of this structure could be catastrophic. It’s difficult to preserve history when it could fall into the Comal River bed below.
Downtown is another area we all want sustained. Much has been written and debated on the pros and cons of the South Castell project. That initiative is at its core a sustainability project for our Civic Convention Center and all of the central business district. Without the addition of a live-work-convention environment downtown, our current thriving downtown will be more and more challenged to attract the current and coming generations. Having such needed infrastructure added on city-owned land is an extra bonus, which can spin off non-taxable income for our city to provide needed street and drainage, and police and fire services all around the community.
Let’s keep New Braunfels Sustainable.
President, Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, Inc.