PROJECT FACT SHEET
Project Name: La Cantera - Phase III
Project Location: San Antonio, Texas
Purpose of Project
Rampant growth is occurring on an aquifer that provides potable water for the northern region of San
Antonio. Pressure to develop a prime real estate parcel at La Cantera within the aquifer is mounting as
local developers try to meet the market demands for housing and commerce. The owner of La Cantera
was not sure whether to sell the parcel for an easy profit, to carefully develop it as the crowning jewel of
their La Cantera community or to preserve it as open space for the benefit of the region. Faced with this
dilemma, the owner chose a planner to study the site and create a vision for the future disposition of this
At the outset, the planner and client crafted a statement which envisions the 178-acre parcel at La Cantera
as a “nationally recognized mixed-use district that is economically, environmentally and socially
sustainable and which preserves the scenic beauty of the site through an open-space and a drainage
framework that preserves open spaces but allows for viable development parcels that express the
character of La Cantera in an organic way.” To achieve the vision, the planner and client identified
guiding principles and goals for the planning effort including:
□ Integrate natural systems to preserve water quality, heritage oaks and regional habitats.
□ Integrate geologic features such as faults, sink holes and rock outcroppings in the open space
□ Provide a hierarchy of public space and pedestrian connections to serve a diverse range of users.
□ Create a dense community that supports opportunities for different forms of public transit
□ Locate and assign development types based on the suitability of the site.
□ Create commercial centers and neighborhoods with a walkable mix of uses that balances jobs and
diverse, affordable housing.
□ Provide an opportunity for civic performing arts at the heart of the site.
□ Provide a strong development framework consisting of open spaces, parks and roads which create
viable development sub-parcels that can be adapted to multiple uses and future market conditions.
□ Uphold the La Cantera brand by promoting quality in everything that is done with the land.
With principles established, the planner was able to begin addressing the site’s primary dilemma which
lies in its regional placement at the interchange of two major freeways and above the Edwards Aquifer
recharge zone. Additionally, adjacent entertainment destinations including a regional lifestyle mall, a
major amusement park and a world-class golf resort surround the site and present other development
opportunities and challenges.
Historically, parts of this karst limestone, oak woodland landscape had been disturbed by mining and
homesteading decades before but the land has since become home to several endangered and threatened
species. Furthermore, Leon Creek, which bisects the site, is an important habitat for birds and small
mammals as well as an important regional drainage corridor. Accordingly, the team analyzed the site’s
role in community and regional systems including geology, drainage, vegetation, slopes, viewsheds,
habitat, climate, land uses and transportation.
The results of a comprehensive analysis were compiled into a Composite Environmental Analysis
Diagram that defined land units based on six types of land sensitivity in terms of real estate development
or open space/parks uses. Understanding exact areas and types of land sensitivity enabled the planner to
determine the most suitable development program and disposition for the land including nearly 30% of
the site preserved as open space. Coupled with an understanding of land sensitivity, the team prepared a
PROJECT FACT SHEET
development framework consisting of roads, mixed-use districts, parks, trails and open spaces that
promoted pedestrian connections, human comfort, energy efficiency and scenic beauty.
The planner used the framework to develop a series of master plan alternatives with varying degrees of
development intensity and open space preservation, ranging from maximizing development to minimizing
development. These scenarios allowed the client to compare different development scenarios and real
estate yields and, more importantly, to select an alternative which aligned with their vision to create a
truly sustainable mixed-use development. From this, the idea of a Garden City was born.
The master plan for La Cantera - Phase III draws from the analysis and framework to create an
intensification of development within a carefully designed open space and road system which enhances
water quality, interpersonal connection and a cogent regional ecosystem. The plan creates three mixed-use
districts tied together by continuous open space systems and a scenic parkway that carefully traverses
through oak woodland and geologic areas. An Urban Core District is organized around a main street that
links future residents, shoppers and workers to the regional lifestyle mall immediately adjacent while also
providing office, hotel, residential and limited retail opportunities. This district has the greatest density
with planned high-rise residential towers and a performing arts center that have commanding views of
San Antonio, the oak-filled slopes of the Central Park District and Leon Creek. The East Village District
provides opportunities for a resort hotel, resort-based housing, office and a major wellness institute based
on its adjacency to the amusement park and existing hotels. Additionally, this district preserves a majority
of the two oak hilltops that help to define La Cantera. Throughout the site, a hierarchy of parks and plazas
serve as destinations and relief from the hot sun. A variety of residential opportunities are essential to the
plan because the surrounding community currently lacks housing, particularly for students at the nearby
University of Texas – San Antonio.
Role of landscape architect/entrant vs. The role of other participants
The landscape architect prepared all analysis diagrams, framework diagrams, and a master plan
document. The client participated in work sessions and presentations with the planner to determine the
vision, principles, goals, development alternatives and the master plan for the project. Base mapping and
infrastructure information was provided by the client’s civil engineer.
(1) The Edwards Aquifer provides water to nearly two million people in the region. Adequate aquifer
levels are essential to maintaining regional springs that support endangered species, recreation,
downstream ecosystems and easily accessible water for human use. The site’s fractures and sinkholes
allow large quantities of storm water to infiltrate into the aquifer.
(2) Three on-site caves are home to bats and spiders, including spiders that are on the endangered list.
(3) Leon Creek is currently an unimproved drainage corridor with tremendous regional potential.
La Cantera elevates the role of landscape architecture by using a land-based planning approach to create a
development vision, physical master plan, real estate business strategy and marketing campaign to attract
the highest level of tenants, developers and users to the Phase III area as well as to preserve the intrinsic
qualities of the site and surrounding property which La Cantera has become famous for. Additionally, this
approach has identified strategies for improving water quality, water infiltration, habitat preservation,
community and regional pedestrian connections, and social diversification which has stimulated
discussions about smart growth in the local community. The plan was submitted to the client in February
of 2007 and an early, significant result of the master planning effort has been that the client has been able
to attract potential office and residential suitors to their site despite a competitive market place and recent
drop in housing demand in the San Antonio region.
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