SA Tomorrow
Port San Antonio Area Regional Center

A History of the Port San Antonio Area Regional Center

The San Antonio River Valley was originally inhabited by the Payaya Indians. In 1691, Spanish missionaries and explorers discovered the area and settled in San Antonio. Early settlement by Spaniards began as a way to reassert Spain’s dominance over Texas. The Alamo and nearby sites were constructed by Spaniards and the Payaya Indians. Over time, with more migrants and through natural population growth, San Antonio eventually became the largest Spanish settlement in Texas.

Development in the southwest San Antonio area was hastened by the railroad age, with the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railroad reaching San Antonio in 1877. By 1881, the railroad network was expanded westward, which included lines through the southwesterly area of current San Antonio city limits, where it ultimately connected with the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1883. This major railroad connection provided a new southern transcontinental route to California, and marked the end of the stagecoach era and the beginnings of the Industrial Age. Population in Bexar County grew from 12,256 in 1870 to 20,550 in 1880. By 1900, San Antonio’s population increased to 53,321, making it the largest city in Texas at the time.

The southwesterly side of San Antonio continued to experience more development as a result of the establishment of Kelly Field and the continued presence of the Air Force with Kelly Field and Lackland Air Force Base (AFB). In 1916, a 700-acre site was selected for a new aviation training facility in southwest San Antonio, which became established as Kelly Field in 1917. Flights began on April 5, 1917 from Kelly Field one day prior to the United States declaring war on Germany during World War I. Prior to development in the 1940s and 1950s, the area surrounding Kelly Field and Lackland Air Force Base was mostly agricultural and consisted of cultivated fields.

After the Federal Interstate Highway System Program was created in the mid-1950s, San Antonio’s first freeways were developed. Interstate 410 (I-410) was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, portions of which were originally part of Loop 13, designed and constructed in the mid- to late- 1930s to connect San Antonio’s military installations. Through the Port San Antonio Area, segments of Loop 13 still exist as Military Drive. US Highway 90 West, which forms the northerly boundary of the Port San Antonio Area boundary, was constructed in the mid-1960s to replace the old US 90 that ran on surface streets through San Antonio’s west side. The concentric highway loops that we drive on today around San Antonio are a result of the Highway System Program and the need to provide roadway infrastructure to connect military infrastructure and key national security assets.

All across the United States, the new freeways, coupled with the Federal Housing Administration’s promotion of suburban development standards for mortgage approval , resulted in a shift of residential housing activity from the core of cities to the suburbs. Consequently, the current built environment closer to downtown San Antonio is notably different from development that exists further out from downtown, reflecting the shift in standards and building styles that has remained the norm. These patterns contributed to sprawl development that characterizes much of San Antonio today. The majority of the land in southwest San Antonio in the past was predominantly agricultural use. Over time, as San Antonio’s population continually and steadily increased, agriculture related uses decreased and the land became developed more for residential, commercial, and light industrial uses.

In the 1940s through 1970s, residents in the Port San Antonio area consisted primarily of the workforce for Kelly Field and Lackland Air Force Base. Many of the residents that currently reside in this area previously worked at Kelly Field or are relatives of former employees. Development patterns in the area have also been influenced by the presence of Lackland Air Force Base. The jets and other airplanes that can be spotted in the sky on a regular basis are a reminder of one’s close proximity to the military base. The height, density, and uses allowed in the area are also governed by safety and other issues related to compatibility with the military missions that are so important to San Antonio’s economy.

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Project Manager

Channary Gould

Planner – Citywide Planning Division


Meet the complete Port San Antonio Area Regional Center Planning Team
The SA Tomorrow Plan

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