The Impulsive Traveler: Details, San Antonio
When Kit Goldsbury purchased the defunct Pearl Brewery in 2001, the neighborhood two miles north of downtown had already become an urban eyesore. Goldsbury, who made his fortune from Pace picante sauce (which he sold to the Campbell Soup Co. in 1995), had a fondness for Latin cuisine and wanted food to be the cornerstone of his redevelopment of the area.
He set his sights high and went after the most prestigious cooking school in America. The CIA was not easily swayed, especially having just opened a second campus in Napa Valley. So the former purveyor of spicy foods learned to sweeten the pot, offering free land and a $35 million check, the largest donation the school has ever received.
In 2006, a pilot program was formed in San Antonio and the first group of students graduated. Two years later, CIA San Antonio became an official branch of the school. A 30,000-square-foot expansion was completed in late 2010, and today, 75 students are enrolled in the Associate Degree in Culinary Arts program with an emphasis on Latin cuisine.
The CIA campus is undoubtedly the lead resident of the Pearl Brewery neighborhood, but Goldsbury’s vision didn’t end there. He persuaded two acclaimed San Antonio chefs, Andrew Weissman and Johnny Hernandez, both CIA Hyde Park graduates, to open restaurants. He also approached retailers he admired, including Twig, the city’s largest independent bookstore, and nonprofit organizations such as the Nature Conservancy. Today, the two-story Full Goods building, a former shipping warehouse, is a mix of retail and office space and the core of the 22-acre district.
Goldsbury has also benefited from the 2009 Museum Reach expansion of San Antonio’s beloved Riverwalk. His property sits directly on the San Antonio River, no more than a 15-minute bike or jog from downtown on the paved trail. Or you can grab one of the water taxis that cruise the river and be dropped off at the Pearl. This has led to an influx of traffic, especially during Saturday’s farmers market or the concerts held at a small outdoor amphitheater that overlooks the river.
I picked up a bike from one of San Antonio’s bike-sharing stations downtown and pedaled to the Pearl on a quiet weekday. Quiet, that is, except for the many construction projects underway on the site. In fact, a bevy of new offerings is about to erupt in the neighborhood.