Hemisfair Park: Time for Bold Steps

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Option Two rendering courtesy of Overland Partners.

Option Two rendering courtesy of Overland Partners.

Robert RivardThe month of May has not been a good one for those working to build a better downtown in San Antonio. From my vantage point, I see well-intentioned people talking past one another, working in isolation without a shared vision.

Without a course correction, the dream many share of a redesigned Hemisfair Park becoming the city's great public gathering place for locals and visitors is likely to fall short.

My fear is that we are blowing it. The civic, cultural and business leadership driving the redevelopment don't seem to be in the same game, and as a consequence, San Antonio might never have a great downtown park.

HemisfairFutureRendering

That would be a tragedy, one that would undermine elements of the community-informed SA2020 plan, Mayor Julián Castro's Decade of the Downtown declaration, and the drive to transform the city's urban core into a nationally competitive space to live and work.

This seems like an opportune time for the newly formed Centro Partnership San Antonio to convene stakeholders and search for consensus and compromise to regain lost momentum.

CentroSanAntonioLogo"Centro Partnership San Antonio is a newly created public-private non-profit organization entrusted to envision and foster a vibrant and prosperous downtown that benefits the entire San Antonio community. The Partnership will focus on guiding and leading development in the center city."

 

Those are Centro's defining words. With former Deputy City Manager Pat DiGiovanni now working as the organization's CEO, this is a good time to put Centro's concept to the test.

Fault lines in and around Hemisfair Park have opened over a range of issues:

* One is the proposed hotel tower atop the historic Joske's building, a project that has been rejected by the city's Historic and Design Review Commission, but has the conditional support of Mayor Julián Castro, City Manager Sheryl Sculley and DiGiovanni. The San Antonio Conservation Society has rejected the project, too, even after it was scaled down and given a new skin by Overland Partners. The rejection has caused many in the development community to wonder how downtown can be revitalized if every building is deemed historic and worthy of protection in its current state and use.

Option One (left) and Option Two (right) project renderings for a hotel tower project on the historic Joske's building. Renderings from Overland Partners as submitted to the Historic and Design Review Commission.

Option One (left) and Option Two (right) project renderings for a hotel tower project on the historic Joske's building. Renderings from Overland Partners as submitted to the Historic and Design Review Commission.

* A second disagreement is over Rep. Mike Villarreal's still-alive legislation that authorizes the Hemisfair Park Redevelopment Corp. to start construction work without holding a citywide election, and that allows construction of one hotel within the park. The bill nearly died after Villarreal, city officials and Zachry Corp. clashed over the bill's ever-shifting fine print. Differences deteriorated into finger-pointing.

* A third dispute has erupted in the Lavaca neighborhood south of the park where residents oppose a proposal by the San Antonio Housing Authority to complete the development of Victoria Commons with a majority of subsidized housing units. Residents say the plans unveiled at a community meeting contradicted previous SAHA assurances of a more economically blended neighborhood. SAHA Chairman Ramiro Cavazos, who also serves as CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, did not attend the hearing. Afterwards, however, he seemed to side with residents, saying subsidized housing should be limited to 20% of the total units rather than the 80% proposed by SAHA staff.

From top: UTSA's Institute for Texan Cultures, the Judge John H. Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse, and the San Antonio Federal Building. Photos by Rachel Pinner.

From top: UTSA's Institute for Texan Cultures, the Judge John H. Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse, and the San Antonio Federal Building. Photos by Rachel Holland.

* Amid these tensions, no one is leading a serious public conversation about the future redevelopment of the southern side of the park, now home to a collection of world's fair era buildings, one in use by UTSA for its Institute of Texan Cultures and the others used by the U.S. Justice Department as offices and a federal courthouse. Redevelopment there is on hold until federal offices move to a yet-to-be built new federal courthouse on the site of the former San Antonio Police headquarters at Santa Rosa and Nueva Streets.

All the great urban parks I know, large and small, from New York's Central Park to Chicago's Grant Park to Boston Common are gathering places that attract locals and visitors alike. It is that mix of interests that creates its own energy and sense of place. These parks are bordered by residential towers and hotels.

A compromise might lie in allowing a new hotel development atop the Joske's building while designating as residential the southern edge of the park. The Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on the park's north perimeter dictates the logic of City Council approving the new hotel. Because of the convention center, it's only natural that hotels abound on Hemisfair's perimeter. One block to the northeast stand the Marriott River Center and Marriott Riverwalk. The Hilton Palacio del Rio, which opened for HemisFair '68, anchors the northwest corner. Down the block on South Alamo Street, the historic Fairmount Hotel offers a more upscale, boutique hotel experience. South of la Villita, the Marriott Plaza San Antonio holds down the southwest corner.

But the northwest corner of Market Street is dead space. Nothing is happening there. It's important to respect the integrity of the Historical and Design Review Commission, but it's also important to see the commission as a body that does not have absolute power and can be overruled when there is compelling reason to do so. One good argument is that the best downtown is a shared downtown, not one where locals displace conventioneers and tourists. San Antonio's convention and visitor trade is the engine in a great economic combine, and it deserves to grow along with every other downtown economic sector.

The Conservation Society's "shadow over the Alamo" argument strikes me as the weakest of all objections. There is no evidence a new hotel will cast anywhere near the shadow, metaphorically speaking, as that of the tacky tourist traps that line Alamo Plaza. The buildings might be historic, but the tenants detract from the authenticity of the Alamo experience. I don't remember that ever being a concern of the Conservation Society. The Emily Morgan Hotel rises up over the Alamo on its north side, but I can't remember anyone lamenting its existence or the shadow it casts.

Shadow predictions during the winter solstice at 12:30 p.m. for Option One (left) and Option Two (right). The Alamo. The shadow of the proposed hotel tower at Joske's barely touches the Alamo, Mission San Antonio de Valero. Renderings courtesy of Overland Partners.

Shadow predictions during the winter solstice at 12:30 p.m. for Option One (left) and Option Two (right). The shadow of the proposed hotel tower at the historic Joske's building barely touches the Alamo, Mission San Antonio de Valero. Renderings courtesy of Overland Partners.

Many thought the first version of the proposed Joske's project looked like a runaway building from Dallas, but the reworked version offered on very short notice by Overland Partners reduced the tower in scale and mass. It's far more attractive than many of the other downtown hotel towers.

"Economic development encourages the proliferation of glass giants ... but not always smart streets or better culture," Michael Kimmelman, the New York Times architecture critic, recently wrote.

Option Two rendering courtesy of Overland Partners.

Option Two rendering courtesy of Overland Partners.

He was talking about New York, but the same can be said for San Antonio. If city leaders are truly committed to making it possible for more people to live downtown and not just encourage visitor industry development, several bold steps will have to be taken.

One is to find places in the park that will be designated for residential development. That will require UTSA agreeing to move the under-utilized Institute of Texan Cultures, and it will mean demolishing some of the other world's fair era buildings. An NRP-style multi-family urban project (think Cevallos Lofts) would fit neatly on the park's southern border and truly connect Southtown to downtown.

None of the buildings in question were meant to endure decades, and none are worthy of praise or protection, in my view. Are they "historical" because they came to life at HemisFair '68? The Tower of Americas serves well as the iconic expression of the time. If every building in the city's past is special and worthy of preservation than none are special.

Simply designating the park's southern perimeter as residential, however difficult a process that could prove to be, will not be enough. The city's recently adopted policy of offering low-interest loans to developers to build more downtown residential projects obviously is not taking hold. Downtown land prices are simply too steep, even with low-interest loans, for anyone to build apartments or convert existing buildings to residential housing and make a profit.

There are remedies. One is for the city, the country and public improvement district to create a private-public development fund that would provide direct cash incentives to developers. It's been done here and in other cities and it makes otherwise unaffordable housing projects affordable. It's the only way to build apartments downtown at $2 or less per square foot. Taxpayers recoup their investment over time with an expanded tax base.

Cevallos Loft courtyard and pool, 301 E. Cevallos St. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Cevallos Loft courtyard and pool, 301 E. Cevallos St. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Suburban council members will fight the establishment of such a fund, but they have one of their own and there ought to be reciprocity. Over the next five years, the city, county and the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority will spend $270 million buying right-of-way along roadways and for drainage systems overwhelmed by sprawl and vehicle traffic. If public funds can underwrite this kind of unchecked suburban development, why can't public funds be made available to spur downtown residential housing? Residents who live in the urban core cost far less in tax dollars than people who live in the ever-expanding suburbs.

There is another bold step the city and county could take to accelerate downtown building conversions into residential housing. City and county leaders could send out appraisers and code compliance officers to reassess every unoccupied building in the urban core. It's easy right now for absentee owners to sit on blighted properties that retard downtown economic development because the taxes they pay are so low. If their properties were assessed at something closer to fair market rates, they would have to either sell or invest. If code compliance officers started to issues citations for broken windows, illegal entry points into empty buildings, interior safety hazards, etc. owners would have to act. Again, such tactics have yielded good results in other cities. It's a matter of political will.

South of Caesar Chavez Boulevard, meanwhile, many Lavaca residents are understandably alarmed by SAHA's mixed messages. The property in question was once the home of the Victoria Courts housing project. Adding back the equivalent of a new housing project would be duplicating the failed policies of the past. Blending in mixed income housing is more in keeping with the organic development of the neighborhood.

The apartment and town-home complex, Victoria Commons – once home of the Victoria Courts housing project. Photo courtesy of SAHA

The apartment and town-home complex, Victoria Commons – once home of the Victoria Courts housing project. Photo courtesy of SAHA

A hotel in the park project is the trickiest challenge. Andres Andujar, the CEO and chief architect of the Hemisfair Redevelopment Corp., makes a strong argument for the value of adding a revenue-producing hotel tenant in the park to help underwrite other uses and improvements.

Selecting a footprint for the hotel and defining its size and design will be necessary to win public support. If the Joske's building can support a 500-room tower, it seems reasonable to argue that the park should become home to a smaller, upscale boutique hotel that does not overwhelm newly created green spaces and leaves open space for public art, jogging paths, water elements and other park amenities.

San Antonio is a city with more than its fair share of chain hotels, and too few boutique venues. The Marriotts and Hyatts and Hiltons and Holiday Inns and all the others are vital to the convention industry and add thousands of jobs, but many people who travel to experience a given city's charms want to stay in a unique hotel, places like the Talbott or Whitehall in Chicago, the Governor Hotel in Portland or the Peery Hotel in Salt Lake City.

A lot of people have a big stake in the future of Hemisfair Park and the surrounding streets, buildings and air space. How well we carry out this major redevelopment project will end up saying a lot about how successful Mayor Julián Castro is in achieving his goal of making this the Decade of Downtown. Without bold moves and serious public-private investment, we probably won't make it. We might take the convention and visitor industry to the next level, but accomplish nothing else.

It's a good time for city leaders to decide whether San Antonio's downtown will remain the province of visitors or become home to locals, too, an aspiration that can't be fulfilled without money.

It's a conversation worth having.

 

Follow Robert Rivard on Twitter @rivardreport or on Facebook.

 

Related Stories:

A Contemporary Look at the Alamodome

Great Cities Have Great Gathering Places

Why San Antonio’s Future is Bright

Thinking Big and Brutal: An Architect Examines Hemisfair Redesign

Hemisfair Park: A ‘Brutal Redesign’ or the Bulldozer?

San Antonio’s Big Bet on Public Art: Hemisfair Park and the San Antonio River

Building a Bicycle-Friendly San Antonio, One Committe Meeting at a Time

 

34 thoughts on “Hemisfair Park: Time for Bold Steps

  1. I’m always amazed by the depth of your articles. You say what needs to be said. There are no buildings currently in hemisphere that are worthy of historical status. ITC is a nice place but it can move to a nicer location. Tower of America’s is prob the only building which I think should remain. Compromises are always made in progress. Hopefully they agree on the future of hemisphere for the sake of the city.

    • That’s a good observation. My guess (and it is a guess) is that developers are unlikely to build a hotel unless they believe they can profit from it by filling rooms. On the other hand, this particular hotel’s choice location, overlooking the busiest pedestrian corner in the city and steps from the Convention Center, the Alamo and Hemisfair Park, likely would draw customers that might otherwise stay in other, older hotels. So it could prove a wash. The location suggests it will be more upscale than the recently developed, affordable suite hotels that sit blocks away from the Convention Center. My larger point is that with or without this hotel, the larger, long-term issue is that we do not have viable economic policies that will produce the thousands of new residential units downtown we need and want.

      We will try to take a closer look at hotel room supply and demand downtown for a future article. Thanks for taking the time to write. –RR

      • Thank you for considering future articles about the need for hotels. There’s a definite tension, as Ben Olivo recently discussed in an interview with Diego Bernal, between residents and hotels. There seems to be a perception that development is limited to tourists and their needs. While travel is a huge economic force in San Antonio, there needs to be a blend with residents and their concerns. As you noted, now is the time for leadership. But I don’t see it.

  2. I’ve done this kind of community work in Boston and it is always the same–a vociferous group with false and speculative claims can’t see the forest because they are focused on the grass. I’m just disappointed that its another hotel. Suggests more people want to visit than live there.

    • The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. People want to be around be other people, whether tourists or residents. Residential development has begun en masse on the periphery of downtown and is moving inward. It will take time because few developers are going to build expensive residences on an island. Once the periphery of downtown is largely occupied with residential projects, it will become safer to do the same closer to the core. A high end hotel helps to promote this energy and pumps per diem dollars into downtown resulting in restaurants, bars, and shops that will be attractive to residents as well.

  3. whoaaa Timothy Cla……let’s tear down Children Magic Theatre and all the vintage homes???

  4. Wasn’t trying to be callous. I don’t know the Magik Theatre’s fate in the renovation. But I haven’t heard any opposition from them yet. It seems from the plans that the theater will remain as is though.

  5. yes, and here is a piece he did back in April about Hemisfair buildings built for World’s Fair 68 and Hemisfair Park redesigning.

  6. Steve Trevino, if you looked at the pictures in the article you would see that the theater and the vintage homes are not at risk–only the ugly concrete buildings built for the fair.

  7. Great article. One concern that I have is the lack of focus on green spaces. I feel we have a great opportunity to create large amounts of open spaces where people can picnic, play sports ( ie: downtown kickball) and excersise. Instead the talk surrounds hotels and apartments. Ask yourself, when you think of a park do you think of hotels or apartments? I think of green grass and trees.

  8. The last thing downtown San Antonio needs right now is another high-rise hotel. Is it just me, or is the only plausible explanation for such a move intended to entice private equity into the costs of the park? We need to get serious about moving people downtown. IF we really wanted to be an urban center, we’d have grocery stores downtown and if we really wanted people to stay with their families we’d be investing in schools downtown that parents would want to keep their children in.

  9. I don’t understand why hotel inventory, as a percentage of available real estate, can’t be more responsibly controlled. I’m encouraged by the new Joske’s tower design, but discouraged that it’s yet another hotel. WIthout clear policy capping hotel development, the experience of downtown is worse for everybody. Speculative land owners holdout for hotels, driving off residential projects. Hotels suffer from the flood of inventory, making a new hotel more attractive than the investment of renovating an established one. Tourists only see other tourists (which does not provide the vacation anyone is seeking). Downtown never develops a 24-hour lifte cycle, because it’s overly dominated by one industry. And without local support, civic spaces do not survive.

    The irony is that restrictions on the tourism industry downtown are the very thing required to save it.

  10. Ambivalent about this ‘JoskeTop’ project because once again we are simply saving the exterior walls of the building. I saw the presentation and Overland did a helluva job considering the time limitations. I’m not understanding how 68% occupancy demands another hotel. It seems to fly in the face of adding more residential. It would be interesting to dredge up the older and approved proposals for Joske’s. Why not turn its existing space and form into a top notch boutique hotel? Insist on the old windows and the corner entrance that connects to the Friendship Torch. The shadow controversy doesn’t bother me but the “we must have this hotel or we will perish” dogma does.

    The historic residences along Goliad are perfectly suited for boutique hotel transformation. They are the right scale and have the right character and could be a lovely little cluster of spaces with grand outdoor elements connecting them. They are perfectly situated as well with access immediately to S. Alamo and what will be the new Northwest Open Space or grand park or whatever it’s being called.

    Bob, you don’t remember people complaining about Emily Morgan’s shadow because you clearly were not around in the mid-1920’s. The plaza is horrific now. I think there’s a deeper issue: who creates retail activity? What are the success rates of Rivercenter shops and is it perhaps time to reevaluate the efficacy of what started as Tiendas del Rio? What locals EVER go there? My first jobs were all on or near Alamo Plaza. The fantastic old H. L. Green’s made it a real downtown. Allowing the Wax Museum however many years ago was the death knell. Allowing Woolworth’s to be ravaged was a huge mistake. Encouraging all the tacky schlock-shops and letting Pat O’Briens close what used to be The Crosswalk completely screwed up the dynamic of what was once an area loves by both locals and the almighty tourist dollar.

    HDRC is only as good as its appointees and only as good as the OHP. I don’t think we want every historic building downtown to be ‘Tobin-Centered’ nor do we want them all moth-balled. If the city had the stones to completely rethink Alamo Plaza retail and force a huge shift, the catalyst would exist for true local support. Towering hotels will not solve the occupancy rate….of either the hotel industry or the residential element. There has to be a much more clever discussion and a cessation of pointing fingers at The Conservation Society.

    Once again, I say we need HPARC style community design charrettes for the area bounded by Durango/Chavez, 37, 90 and 35/10. We go into myopic hyperdrive on who gets to weigh in on issues of such huge import. Why isn’t the King Wiliam Association involved in the Victoria Commons debates? Or might they better serve us by converting to the KWFA? King William Fair Association. We have no clear guidance when we truly need it and are squeezed into enjoying the rain ala Claytie Williams’ advice.

  11. Bob, well written article. I must commend you.

    Let me throw a few balls of a disagreeance your way. First, let me state that i would love to have a downtown park. After that thought, I have serious concerns of what it would be in the end…

    1) Let’s be honest, the downtown plaza is a mecca for homeless and wayward folks during the day. The usage of downtown residents and business persons has trailed off… Hemisfair park would likely be a huge playground for homeless and downtrodden. Unless Mayor Castro has some plan to continue to find shelter for such individuals, this can ruin the park. sad. but true.

    2) To propose a legislation where you do not need a vote is akin to the total and complete JUNK we are seeing today by the Obama administration. This notion you do as you wish with no responsibility to the local citizenry is ridiculous. Mr Villareal, a fervent castro ally and vice-versa for castro need to understand the backlash they are already sewing with these actions.

    3) drainage systems are a fundamental need. not apples to apples.

    4) While I applaud the Mayor on specific items, let us call a spade a spade. His leadership is completely absent here. I believe this project may be out of the scope of what he wishes to tackle in his final few years. The potential for negative outcomes leaves his political flank wide open – something you do not want as you seek higher office.

    5) Baby steps would be more appropriate. When you can not agree on such huge downtown projects (builders, mayor’s office, citizens, authorities, etc), we should begin by building the infrastructure directly on the park and branch outward. The big bang theory is great for some projects, not for others. The Mayor could easily begin a soft build-out, which would protect him politically and begin this process, which is likely to be arduous over the coming months and years. Even the River Walk was completed in phases, including the only recent south

    4) we are talking residence, but the business office space is seeing mass exodus , with rumored 30 % ish vacancy. Recently, a big law firm left downtown for alamo heights. I realize the protection police are out for the Mayor, but if we are going to have a thriving downtown, we must have constant velocity in the vacancy arena for business’ and the benefits (personnel, downtown living, spending, etc) they bring to the table.

    5) Again, I vote for redesigning of the specific park place and its landscape on the park with a few buildings. Find a way to make it a destination place. Then, expand.

    I commend your piece again. We need more discussion on solutions. Downtown is faltering.

    • Dear LD: Why don’t you draft an article for the RR that sets forth your specific views and proposals, something that does not disparage individual elected officials. You can question their policy decisions in this space, but not their motives, at least not without hard evidence they deserve such verbiage. I’d rather publish a piece where you express fundamentally different philosophical, political or economic arguments and offer alternative courses of action. Thanks for taking the time to write. –RR

      • Bob,

        Nothing was disparaged or repudiated. Simply, fact-driven opinion. “absent” is clearly based on the lack of leadership in many venues the Mayor has for Hemisfair, albeit the initial idea. A term is representative of the many pieces. an entire article could be written by you or your staff towards the mayors “absent” to push a Hemisfair Park revitalization. Simply, idea and solution finding are nice, but leadership will always caveat a job to exemplar ends. To write such an article may not be in the blood, but it would be in the forward spirit.

        So, i have stretched many facts, with many city events, alongside multiple outcomes to produce words such as “absent”, and such. It is thus your opinion of only verbiage, but such preclusions are yours only. To list would be pages. We must indulge a large amount of pre-knowledge to be effective, yes?!

        Why I even offer a political protection plan. Now that is single-minded and not to be rolled over lightly. The vacancy issue is writ en masse in our palms. The inward to outward concept is critical.

        Please re-consider as STRATEGIC concepts now are more important than many hitherto’s. Strategic leadership the same…

        …In summary, let us monitor these items – as they are determinants of final success!

        -LD

        My article is writ en-large. see above. :).

        ‘Oh ye that halt differences’…. I disagree with you, but yet this is okay.

  12. If someone is willing to invest in our city then why not let them? It wasn’t until “outside” developers, builders and transplants started noticing our downtown affordability and moved here that our very own residents are now taking action and wanting to claim hands off. As a 20 year SA resident I love my city but I have seen many other cities make great strides. Besides the group always commenting on the matter how many of our residents can say they actually visit the Hemisfair Park area? One thing I don’t agree with is placing a hotel in the area. Isn’t the Grand Hyatt and the surrounding hotels enough? The Hotel space would bring traffic issues to the already small space. If anything should be done to the downtown area it should be the revitalization and development of the RiverCenter Mall and the awful outdated Institute for Texan Cultures and Federal Courthouse.

  13. I guess I don’t quite understand how another hotel will improve not only the overall aesthetic of downtown, but the labor market as well. Aesthetically speaking, the design doesn’t add to a continuity, instead it breaks up the visual aspect of the ‘somewhat’ skyline of downtown. It just doesn’t work and looks downright tacky and forced. Instead of another hotel we should be adding a small science or technology museum. Or perhaps a development project backed by big business interested in urban renewal and re-development. Labor market wise; well, I don’t work downtown but I’ve had a few friends who have over the years and I from these experiences, it appears that the only sort of job opportunities which will become available from yet another hotel will be those of the house keeping, service industry type.

  14. I guess I don’t quite understand how another hotel will improve not only the overall aesthetic of downtown, but the labor market as well.

    Aesthetically speaking, the design doesn’t add to a continuity, instead it breaks up the visual aspect of the ‘somewhat’ skyline of downtown. It just doesn’t work and looks downright tacky and forced. Instead of another hotel we should be adding a small science or technology museum. Or perhaps a development project backed by big business interested in urban renewal and re-development.

    Labor market wise; well, I don’t work downtown but I’ve had a few friends who have over the years and I from these experiences, it appears that the only sort of job opportunities which will become available from yet another hotel will be those of the house keeping, service industry type.

    All in all it seems a rather half-heartedly, thinly veiled attempt to pacify San Antonioans and try to pass of Progress, as nothing more than another tourist hotel; everyone else who would dare oppose such Progress is therefore an obstructionist and antiquated in their logic.

    In no way, shape, or form, is this new hotel Progressive. Not in it’s looks, Heck!, not even in the fact that it’s a hotel; how is a hotel Progressive unless it is either breaking records, or adding some breaking architectural design? This design is neither; therefore, in my mind the only logical conclusion would be to try and find a developer more like-minded as to what our San Antonio culture wants to define for it’s future.
    Just a thought!

  15. Mr. Rivard – I don’t agree with your points about the tower on top of Joske’s. I object to it for many reasons, but at this point in time, I say simply “Not Now.”
    Why not now?
    Two primary reasons:
    — The UNESCO World Heritage designation would bring far more economic development to our city than would another hotel. Building on top of Joske’s could threaten the World Heritage nomination. If construction were to proceed, that Alamo Plaza area would be a total construction mess at the very time when World Heritage inspectors would visit the missions, including the Alamo. Even the tiniest threat to the designation should be considered a no-go at this time. There are economic impact studies to support the value of a World Heritage designation.
    — The second Not Now reason is — Despite the fact that Project for Public spaces laid out ideas and recommendations based on public meetings for improving the experience of Alamo Plaza for tourists and locals – and $1,000,000 bond was approved to begin task — Nothing has yet been done in the past year. Nothing.
    Any new construction or major changes in the Alamo Plaza core should be delayed until the World Heritage designation is decided and until major planning for Alamo Plaza is complete.
    Then would be the time to decide if more hotels need to be there.

  16. http://sacurrent.com/news/cityscrapes-one-more-hotel-1.1492458

    This article by UTSA Public Policy Prof. Heywood Sanders is apt to this discussion.

    As the Co-founder of Downtown Kickball League, which plays at Hemisfair Park on that little patch of grass on S. Alamo beside Magic Theatre. I can tell you without a doubt The league would not be the same if we played elsewhere. Playing and congregating in the shadow of the Tower adds something special.

    Mr. Andujar has done a masterful job so far. However, I do disagree with the amount of field space in his design, there is not enough field space. If San Antonio wants to emphasize becoming a fit city it should start at the core. More field space to encourage a pick-up soccer match, a fitness session or simply to throw a frisbee should be more of a priority. Look to Central Park in New York or Zilker in Austin, at the core park there should be a place to run around and break a sweat!

  17. I believe in a strong downtown and city center as much as the next guy but I think we should build more linkages connecting the city center to the rest of the city.

    These linkages would be an awesome way to keep traffic (pedestrian, vehicular, etc.) moving from strong economic hubs like the Medical Center to downtown.

    Via Primo is already a good way of moving people back and forth from the medical center to downtown but it just looks like to makes things worse. The bus stalls traffic at several points along that route.

    We may need other alternatives or a better bus route to shuttle people but my point is that we need those connections from economic centers to the core the same way we need the heart and the blood vessels to transport blood to the appendages.

    One very good example is the Mission Reach which is a perfect route for people to get from downtown to the southside, visit the missions and return. The trail itself and the roads with those awesome green light poles and sidewalks are awesome!

  18. While SA doesn’t have the best record on historical preservation, that’s not really the problem with Hemisphere Park. There could be boutique hotels within easy walking distance if there was a promenade over to the Sunset Station area. That area was cutoff in 1968 (World’s Fair) when they made E. Commerce one way, then IH10/281 cut it off further in the 1970’s. It was sorta fixed in the late ’80s. A scenic stroll that didn’t involve dodging cars could reconnect the near East Side with downtown again. I hope the E. Commerce reconfiguration does the city proud.
    A good park would be enough for residents, it will still be a huge improvement, it doesn’t need to be everything to everyone. Not a big fan of public/private partnerships, the public doesn’t seem to come out all that well. We taxpayers can afford a good park.
    Large conventions are so five years ago, why isn’t anyone screaming about the huge amount being spent on that dinosaur?

  19. As long as Mr. Rivard seems concerned with a centralized downtown park (an opinion of which I completely agree!); I wonder, shouldn’t we be considering a park in which the city can host more music festivals and the not? I believe even Houston has the ‘Buffalo Bayou’ park now in which you can kayak, and a festival called the Free Press-similar to our Current-Summer Fest FPSF has been held each summer for the past 4 or 5 years. They’ve had everyone from The Flaming Lips, Snoop, Weezer, Girl Talk, Beirut, Big Boi, Major Lazer(?),…

    Anywho..I think this is an important topic be taken into consideration, music, folklife, film, art, book, festivals as a whole generate a lot of revenue for those cities, such as Boston, listed in Mr. Rivard’s post.

  20. First let me say that i agree completely with these statements my Mr.Rivard. Now let me say that I belive yhat one more hotel downtown may not be the economic growth we are looking for however it is growth and does help. The alamo will not be affected and that is something that people are using for an excuse that isn’t even relevent. This city is growing, with over 2 million residents and a ~4% growth rate, there will be development downtown. So I am for the Joske’s project.

    Hemisphere park does need work however how it is, is not bad. Must i remind you that the park was not created to be a downtown metropolitan park but to be a host to the 68′ Worlds Fair. Turning it into a downtown recreational park is an interesting idea i may be for but i do want it to not lose its identity. Now to the people saying that condos/hotels near or on the park is a bad idea, must I remind you that Zilker Metropolitan Park in Austin has condos on the park and it has do e wonders for the downtown development and the park’s development. They are planning another at Zilker as well.

    Remember when the convention center hotel idea was pitched? I think it should be brought back. As Julián Castro has said (and I agree) : There will be development in that area, and there is no need to put it off or rush it but if the opportunity comes not to ignore it.

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