About 200 people gathered to see colorful architectural models of the Zócalo (the classic plaza), the Grand Lawn, the connective Promenade, the Shallows (nature garden), the River Terrace, and more elements of the northwest corner of the park, all of which will offer more than eight football fields of public space when complete in 2018, in time for the city’s 300-year anniversary celebrations and the 2018 NCAA Final Four.
Members of the Hemisfair team and Seattle-based architectural firm Gustafson Guthrie Nichol were on hand to present the plans, which include strong references to the importance of flowing water to the city’s foundation and growth.
Mayor Ivy Taylor made an appearance at the meeting to commend the project and thank its supporters, including donors to the nascent Hemisfair Conservancy.
“Many (people) have been a part of this process – regular citizens, board and staff, and the designs result from a collaboration between the Hemisfair team and across San Antonio,” she said. “We need citizens to guide public investment as we create a comprehensive plan for the city in 2015.”
Mayor Taylor said the project has received broad community support which has transformed it into more than a park. The plans now honor the 1968 World’s Fair as well as the area’s pre-1960s history, the mayor noted.
Construction on the Civic Park is expected to begin in mid-2016 on the site of the original portion of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
The design team is studying three different designs using recycled water from the San Antonio Water System (SAWS), rainwater retention, and a small-scale water reclamation model, said Drew Gangnes, senior principal at Magnusson Klemencic Associates.
The design connects the site’s historic acequia to neighboring waterways and includes inspiration from Balcones Escarpment and the Texas Hill Country, said Kathryn Gustafson, a firm principal. Implementing water storage and flood irrigation will make Hemisfair a truly San Antonian park. Each section of the park has its own mood to fit desired uses.
The Great Lawn, for instance, is essentially the main stage of the park. It’s intended to be used for classic park purposes such as picnics, playing catch, perhaps even a game of kickball. The space is also large enough to host movies under the stars, a popular past time at Hemisfair – and enough capacity for 7,200 people.
The Shallows, on the other hand, is an interactive water feature designed for people of all ages to allow wading, sailing a model boat, or dozing in a chaise lounge in the water. An adjacent plaza and lawn provides space for recreation, relaxation, and refreshments.
Plans are underway to reconnect Hemisfair to the surrounding neighborhoods of Lavaca, La Villita, and downtown San Antonio to do away with Hemisfair as an “island.”
When complete, the new Hemisfair district will encompass 36 acres, revive Labor Street, and showcase San Antonio as a sustainable city. Several cities are currently redeveloping urban sites that were previously developed for world’s fairs, including the Seattle Center and San Francisco’s Treasure Island.
The Hemisfair team fielded questions from audience members, ranging from concerns about pedestrian safety on South Alamo and Market streets, Hemisfair’s connection to the Eastside, selection of developers for the Public-Private Partnership (P3), and removal of the Hemisfair Park Archway. All concepts that make up the Hemisfair Master Plan will be informed by the public through dozens more community meetings, Hemisfair staff has said, in the new year and beyond.
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Construction began on the Yanaguana Garden, the four-acre recreational and play site spanning the southwest quarter of Hemisfair, in late August, with the first phase of the project opening to the public in 2015. When complete, it will make use of Water Street and South Alamo streets as pedestrian and bike portals to the community and offer a relaxing garden, a plaza, a play square, a facility for food trucks, and an Alamo gateway.
*Featured/top image: Rendering of Hemisfair’s Civic Park Zócalo. Courtesy rendering.
Correction: This article previously reported that the new Hemisfair district would include 18 acres of parkland upon completion. It should have read that the Hemisfair District would encompass 36 acres, not including federal properties, the Institute of Texan Cultures, or the expanded Convention Center. There will be 18.47 acres of dedicated parkland within the new district.