Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

La Zona Lights Up San Antonio

A Placemaking Grant awarded to the San Antonio Board of REALTORS® supports arts and entertainment in new ‘speakeasy’ alley activation.

Working with placemaking organization Centro San Antonio, the San Antonio Board of REALTORS® has created a buzzworthy “speakeasy” alley activation—La Zona. La Zona is a hidden gem, located in an alley between the 300 block of Commerce Street and West Houston Street in San Antonio, Texas. The project has transformed a long-abandoned block into a vibrant new gathering space that comes to life with performance art, sculpture, music, and hyper-local offerings from area creators.

La Zona engages the community through art, activation, and social media, offering free programming to support local makers and promote the social and artistic vibrancy of La Zona and the surrounding Cultural District. The Cultural District—also known as Zona Cultural—is home to many of San Antonio’s most historic and iconic locations and institutions, including Main Plaza, Plaza de Armas, Market Square, Alameda Theater, and San Fernando Cathedral.

The purpose of the alley activation is to create a “halo effect” that surrounds the district and supports area businesses and creators. Ultimately, the hope is to bring more people downtown to immerse themselves in the rich history and culture of the neighborhood. As Elizabeth Burt, Centro’s Director of Urban Activation + Play, told “La Zona offers the city a unique opportunity to marry our respect for history, culture, and community with a nod to our cool and prosperous future.”

Work on the alley activation was performed in two segments. The first phase kicked off in June with experimenting and curating. Featured events included the Nomad Music Festival, the Music for Advanced Writers Album Release Party, and a movie night with Slab Cinema. The second phase, which began in August and signaled the official opening of La Zona, shifted to true hosting—a community open call for activities and engagements from area stakeholders and creative makers.

La Zona is easily accessible to all. Adjacent and affordable public/private parking options are available, and there are TONS of multimodal options to get to and from La Zona and downtown, including walking, SWell Cycle, scooters, or ride-share. La Zona is also situated near VIA Centro Plaza, a major connector for VIA Metropolitan Transit, as well as the Double Decker tour buses, which offer daily routes between Market Square and the Alamo.

NAR’s Placemaking Grant funds were utilized by SABOR for landscaping, and staging and production elements. SABOR has also provided volunteer support through various committees and will host its committee appreciation celebrations at La Zona. Lifschutz Companies, a family-owned and operated real estate investment, development, and management company, has offered additional support as a strategic partner.

Centro San Antonio will sustain and maintain the space. Additionally, they intend to capture and measure quantitative data through is a location-based, retail intelligence tool that generates insights into any place in the U.S. uses anonymized location data from mobile devices to help analyze visitor patterns. This system will allow Centro to gather regionally specific data, such as location analytics, foot traffic (daily, weekly, monthly), migration trends, transportation routes, and benchmark data (events, time, locations). They will also collect qualitative data through partner, vendor, and stakeholder testimonials. The information will be used to gauge the economic boost La Zona provides to surrounding businesses and neighborhoods.

“La Zona is a breath of fresh air,” community activator Chris Leal told “It will provide an incubator for the downtown scene of San Antonio to grow and thrive.”


Community Outreach Programs

Housing Opportunity Grant
Housing Opportunity Grants support state and local REALTOR® Associations’ affordable housing activities. The goal of the program is to position REALTORS® as leaders in improving their communities by creating affordable housing

Smart Growth Grant
Smart growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement. The Smart Growth Program offers state and local REALTOR® Associations to way to engage with government officials, community partners and the general public in planning and designing community’s future.

Planned diversity initiatives makes good business sense. REALTOR® Associations with well-planned diversity programs create a stronger sense of community, particularly in neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreign-born and minority residents who are moving up the socioeconomic ladder and are buying homes.

NAR Placemaking Resources

Placemaking Guide: A Guide to Transform a Public Space into a Community Place
REALTORS® and state and local association staff can learn the details of Placemaking, the kinds of projects placemaking entails, how to organize them, and where to go for assistance and resources.

Placemaking Webinar Series
Our Placemaking Webinar Series will provide more in depth information on the various types of Placemaking and how REALTORS® were involved in Placemaking activities in their communities.

Placemaking Grant
The Placemaking Grant funds the creation of new public spaces, like pocket parks, trails & gardens, in a community. The grant focuses on “lighter, cheaper, quicker” placemaking projects, which can be built under a year and cost less  than $200,000.

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Smart Growth

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