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 MySanAntonio.com: “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 Placer.ai. Placer.ai is a location-based, retail intelligence tool that generates insights into any place in the U.S. Place.ai 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 MySanAntonio.com. “It will provide an incubator for the downtown scene of San Antonio to grow and thrive.”