Approximately 30 riders of all ages and experience levels joined us on our weekly Something Monday casual, social bike ride to meet with Rachel Holland of the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation.
It’s the first time one of our excursions completely wiped out a 15-bike B-cycle station, we had to grab some from the nearby Liberty Bar station in order to continue our short ride from the Blue Star Arts Complex to Hemisfair Park.
There have been countless community meetings and presentations about what the future of Hemisfair will look like since HPARC’s inception in 2009. There will certainly be many more to solidify plans for phase one, Play Escape; phase two, Civic Park; and phase three, Tower Park. The redevelopment will also include the realignment of Market Street and re-establishment of several historic roads through the park district (see map below).
The first solid plans for phase one, the four acre, triangular section along South Alamo Street, will be submitted to the Historic Design and Review Commission at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Holland is confident that the Play Escape – “these are all working titles until the public comes up with something better” – will be approved.
HPARC will then host a repeat presentation later that evening during a design preview event 6 p.m. at the Magik Theatre. Holland, of course, saved some juicy Play Escape details for Wednesday.
Construction on the Play Escape, which includes an acequia walk, archeological dig, music garden and game plaza, will begin in May 2014 and is expected to be completed in early 2015.
A majority of park programming and events will take place in Civic Park. Once a portion of the convention center is demolished and relocated to the east, Civic Park – equivalent to nine football fields – may also host an amphitheater at the River Walk. Plans for Tower Park are too far in the future to have a definitive timeline, but Holland said the “urban district” should be complete by the end of 2018.
“(Hemisfair Park) will be a lot more than just a park, it will be its own an urban district,” Holland said. Complete with housing, retail, restaurants, educational/historic exhibits, public art, and more – for locals and tourists alike.
Areas shaded tan within the park acreage are designated for possible mixed-use developments.
“HemisFair ’68 displaced (about) 3,000 people, so it would be great to achieve that (density),” Holland said to answer a question from the Something Monday crew about residential units. “But it will definitely be least 1,000.”
The hotel option is still on the table as well, Holland said, but for only 200 rooms, allowing for a smaller, boutique hotel.
UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures will remain at its current location (southeast corner) and the federal land on the southern edge of HPARC’s boundary will “literally take an act of congress” in order to fund the construction of new locations for the federal building and courthouse.
One of the coolest possible features of the park that I personally hadn’t heard of yet was the idea to have underground parking, just below Civic Park. While Hemisfair is encouraging multimodal transit on internal and nearby streets to follow the “complete street” model, “we’ve also got to remain friendly to cars.” It’s a clever way to hide a parking lot – if the price is right.
“Hemisfair Park is an opportunity to get people back downtown – to make it cool again,” Holland said.
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After Holland’s presentation, about half the crowd gathered at The Friendly Spot for a few drinks, looking forward to Hemisfair’s new look, coming soon to a downtown near you.