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Hemisfair announced Wednesday that it received a $750,000 grant from Bank of America to restore the Kusch House, one of the historic homes in the urban park district.
There are 21 historic homes in Hemisfair, including the buildings occupied by Dough Pizzeria and Commonwealth Coffee. A new tenant for the Espinoza House, which is currently empty, will be announced in a few weeks, spokeswoman Thea Setterbo said.
Once it’s restored, the Kusch House also will have a commercial tenant. The house is thought to have been constructed by stonemason John Kusch in the late 19th century. The house was owned by a member of the Kusch family until the 1968 World’s Fair, according to City records.
The structure is not in “exemplary” condition, Hemisfair CEO Andres Andujar said. The house has been used recently as storage and office space for contractors working on projects in Hemisfair. The last business that operated in the space was a jewelry and gift store, while it housed Mexican restaurant La Fonda Santa Anita during HemisFair ’68. The Kusch House is located on East Nueva Street between the Mexican Cultural Institute and the ’68 Apartments.
The Bank of America donation is the largest corporate gift that Hemisfair has received. In August, Union Pacific donated $500,000 to improve the splash pad at Yanaguana Garden.
Jessica Miller, the San Antonio market president for Bank of America, said Hemisfair’s ability to connect San Antonians reflected the company’s values. Helping small businesses is also one of Bank of America’s staple functions, she said.
“Not only is Hemisfair the center of the community, we thought that putting our resources into the Kusch House allows us to live our purpose,” Miller said. “And certainly our hope is we’ll encourage others in the community to see all the great work Hemisfair is doing and also contribute.”
Bank of America did not specifically decide to fund renovations for the Kusch House; it was simply the next item on Hemisfair’s renovation to-do list, Andujar said. The design and permit application process will start immediately, and the Bank of America funding will allow Hemisfair to do a “white box” build – restoring the historic building and making it ADA-accessible, with plumbing, electric, and HVAC capabilities.
The tenant selected to operate out of the Kusch House will be responsible for outfitting the building with any needed equipment, such as kitchen sinks or grease traps, Andujar added, which is typical of commercial lease structures.
The renovation process will take around 21 months from start to finish, Hemisfair Conservancy Executive Director Anne Krause estimated. She said Bank of America’s gift allows the conservancy to leverage its donation to attract more funding.
“Funders love knowing they’re not alone,” Krause said. “The brand of Bank of America is very well respected and it validates the support they made. … It’s really important to let the funding community know we do have a broad base of support and we have major funders who really believe in our aspirational vision.”
In honor of the donation, the promenade in Yanaguana Garden will be dubbed the Bank of America Promenade, Setterbo said. The name will be displayed on two park benches at either opening of the vine-covered walkway that leads from the Yanaguana Garden playground area to Dough Pizzeria.
Miller said she loves visiting Yanaguana Garden with her children, who always pull her toward the Paléteria in search of frozen treats.
“When I walk through the park and see the kids playing in the playground in the water, and the camaraderie around in stores down there, and community movie nights, it’s become a hub for activity and getting outdoors too,” Miller said. “This certainly is promoting San Antonio’s walkability and moving it into being a healthier city.”