You’re speaking with an out-of-towner considering a move to San Antonio; despite the fact that the city has piqued their interest, they’re ambivalent. How do you make them reconsider moving to our great city? Do you mention our burgeoning tech and startup scene? Our plethora of districts offering us so many avenues for social interaction and places to live? The James Beard-awarded and/or nominated chefs and bartenders? And let’s not forget the San Antonio Spurs, five major universities, and breakfast tacos. It’s not a question of “What do I say?”; it’s a question of “Where do I start?”
But great cities must grow; they must progress, as we currently are. What do we lack? What voids must we fill? For one, we need to support our burgeoning start-up scene, especially with all of the resources and business partnerships available in San Antonio. This is where Innovation Districts come in, a trend in major cities in which design meets function: Start-ups, universities, businesses, nonprofits, research institutions, and even residences come together in a single area for purposes such as synergy and inspiration. Entrepreneurs, techies, established leaders, artists, researchers, scientists, engineers, architects: The most innovative leaders in their fields come together on a day-to-day basis. Another result is that people are drawn to living in the urban core of the city. It’s like Geekdom, but on a much grander and all-encompassing scale.
With Cafe Commerce and the San Antonio Entrepreneur Center down the street from Geekdom, as well as all of the empty storefronts all along Houston Street, we have a perfect location for the concept, especially considering that we have plenty of businesses downtown as well–they just need to be connected, both creatively and spatially. This synergy leads to amazing breakthroughs in research, science, technology, and business. At the core of this is the fact that these districts are built up of an economic, physical, and networking ecosystem, complemented by B-Cycles, fiber optic internet connections, bars, restaurants, retail, and coffee shops.
For example, imagine that an architecture firm moves in next door to Geekdom. Across the street comes a branch of the Southwest Research Institute, neighbored by a non-profit such as Culinaria or the Boys and Girls Club. Geekdom grads that have evolved into brick-and-mortar businesses move in as well, as does an engineering firm and a library or bookstore. Also important are intermediaries to help fuel the collaboration process, as well as education and training facilities. Leadership and a vision are important: Growth is both symptomatic and intentional. The success of these districts in Europe, where they originally began, has led to them popping up all over the country: Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Boston, and Philadelphia, among many others.
San Antonio is next major city to join the list of innovative cities.