The French & Michigan Gallery in San Antonio’s Beacon Hill neighborhood has been shut down and sitting in limbo for several weeks now. Although not zoned for commercial use, the architectural design firm opened its art gallery a few months ago and has since been enmeshed in neighborhood squabbles, mainly about the horrible parking situation.
According to Texas Public Radio News, the city’s planning commission gave “its blessing” for the space in December and is now waiting for the zoning commission to do the same. Apparently, District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal has been pulled into the argument, which echoes many of the same points made in developing art districts everywhere. While the gallery and many artists (some of whom live in the neighborhood) consider the gallery to be an asset, promoting the arts in the inner city, Bernal has also been receiving a variety of complaints from the other side, as he reports to the San Antonio Express-News: “You’ll hear a number of different things—one is parking, one is safety, one is gentrification, one is outsiders coming into the neighborhood, one is that the property has primarily been used for residential purposes and the suggested use is too extreme.”
“I don’t believe that there’s been a real effort to bring people together and figure out if there’s a middle ground,” said Bernal. “That’s what my role is now and I think we can get there.” If the councilman is successful, there’s a very long list of fledgling art areas that could use his mediation skills.