The Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment team released some bold new renderings Wednesday that represent what mixed-used buildings could look like in the urban park as part of a request for qualifications from area real estate developers. Hemisfair is seeking partners to enter into a public-private agreement to construct a mixed-use development totaling 500-750,000 sq. ft. in the park’s northwest quadrant.
The project will include more than 800 parking spaces to accommodate park visitors and others utilizing future residential, office, hotel, retail and restaurant facilities. This development will be adjacent to the Civic Park, “the largest and most iconic of the three parks being built,” stated a press release.
Also on Wednesday, Hemisfair CEO Andrés Andujar briefed City Council during B Session on the transformative progress being made on the original site of the 1968 World’s Fair in the city’s core. The presentation included a first look at Hemisfair’s new tagline, “Where San Antonio Meets,” and a new logo, designed by local design firm Heavy Heavy of #KeepSAreal fame.
Download the full presentation here.
Andujar hopes to achieve several goals via public private partnerships: achieve a balance between parkland and developed parcels; separate and protect green spaces; and use lease revenues from new mixed-use development to pay for maintenance and operation.
One proposed mixed-use development for Water Street is in the negotiation phase. This development would boast more than 160 mixed income residential units; a structured parking garage with 418 spaces, including more than 250 public parking spaces; a 3,200-sq. ft. neighborhood commercial space; and 6,500 sq. ft. of work-live space.
The iconic Hemisfair Park archway on South Alamo Street came down in February to make way for improvements. The removal sparked an uproar, although many were unaware the archway was not original to HemisFair ’68, and actually was installed in 1988 and thus was not eligible for historic designation.
“The archway had to be deconstructed to make way for the development of the streets project, which seeks to restore historic context to the district with beautiful park streets that are safe for biking, walking and with greatly reduced vehicular speeds for safety,” Andujar said last month. “Hemisfair recognizes that the archway holds fond memories for many in San Antonio and so our current plan is to dismantle and store the archway until we can agree on a new place for it at Hemisfair. The arch isn’t going away for good – it’s being removed and relocated to make way for an important part of the Hemisfair redevelopment.”
Civic, Yanaguana, and Tower Park Timelines
HPRC is a nonprofit overseeing the redesign and redevelopment of the downtown park, which Andujar said will be central to achieving the city’s objective of placemaking – a multifaceted approach at managing public spaces around the urban core. The project is designed to leverage public funds, committed so far from the city’s voter-approved 2012 bond, and private money in the way of new development.
Yanaguana Garden, an educational playscape for all ages marking the first phase of redevelopment of Hemisfair Park, could be open to the public as early as July, city officials said Wednesday.
The city envisions Yanaguana Garden as a colorful, landscaped, vibrant place for adults and children of all ages and abilities, who will get to enjoy and learn through a variety of games, outdoor amenities and other interactive recreational activities, he said.
“This is truly something for all San Antonians,” Andujar said. “It’ll do a good job to attract locals as well as visitors. We believe this will have a community-wide impact.”
Local art, culture, history, as well as energy- and water-efficient features will be part of the park, which is being developed at the corner of South Alamo Street and Cesar Chavez Boulevard.
“When the park opens, you’ll be able to see six or seven public art works throughout the park, from murals to installations,” Andujar said.
Two other parks are slated to be completed by 2020. Civic Park, a working title, should open in 2018, just in time for San Antonio’s tricentennial and the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair. Civic Park will be located at the corner of Market and South Alamo streets, north of Yanaguana Garden. It will also be the biggest in the new Hemisfair, featuring more than eight football fields worth of open public space for both large-scale gatherings and casual visits.
Construction of Civic Park will involve demolition of the northwest corner of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, scheduled for next year.
“As we go forward and bring in the private sector to make investments, we want their developments to be well suited for the Civic Park’s design,” Andujar said.
A third park, called Tower Park, will encompass the Tower of the Americas in the center of the redevelopment. It’s scheduled to open in 2020.
The conversion of existing streets in and around a redeveloped Hemisfair, meant to incorporate a historical context, is a crucial component in the overall project. According to Andujar, the objective here is to protect and restore any historic properties while acting as a catalyst for future public and private development.
Another goal, Andujar said, is to have a new Hemisfair serve as a physical and symbolic link to La Villita and downtown and adjacent neighborhoods such as Southtown, Lavaca, and the near Eastside, including St. Paul Square.
Driving Through Hemisfair
The streets inside and surrounding the new Hemisfair will have sidewalks compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, storm water capture elements, and low-impact development (LID) design and technologies. The streets running through Hemisfair’s interior also will feature very low-speed limits to increase pedestrian safety and accommodate a complete street design. The first phase of roadwork here affects East Nueva Street from South Alamo through Water Street. East, Nueva, Water and South Alamo streets surround Yanaguana Garden.
“When this street opens in 2016, you’ll be able to drive around the entire block,” Andujar said, adding that Hemisfair studied other large communities with streets stretching through their major urban parks.
Another aspect of Hemisfair’s redevelopment efforts is philanthropy. Last year the Hemisfair Conservancy was launched as a separate nonprofit to help raise private investments and endowment dollars. The money raised will go toward park improvements and maintenance. Donor recognition is key for raising capital, Andujar said. The goal for the conservancy is to raise $2 million this year and tens of millions of dollars in the following years. The objective is for Hemisfair to be self-sustaining and free of public funding by 2021. Andujar said achieving the fundraising goals has been a challenge.
“It’s hard work ahead from a philanthropic perspective. It’ll take all that we have,” he said. “We’re looking to successful completed projects such as the Tobin (Center for the Performing Arts) as a model.”
Council members were impressed with the confidence that Andujar has for the success of the overall project.
“This will be a transformational project for our city,” said Mayor Ivy Taylor.
District 2 Councilman Alan Warrick II asked whether the new Hemisfair would somehow make it easier to attract pedestrians and bicyclists from the near Eastside and other neighborhoods that border Hemisfair and the downtown sector.
Andujar said Hemisfair is working with the city on a signage and “way-finding” master plan, so that it will be easy and alluring for locals and visitors from all points to find Hemisfair, and guide themselves with relative easy upon arrival.
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“We want to incorporate a strategy for way-finding from all directions,” he added.
Historic and Downtown Design Standards
The City’s Office of Historic Preservation, the Center City Development and Operations Office (CCDO), and Department of Planning and Community Development (PCD) all are on a mission to review historic design standards and placemaking guidelines, to see how they best apply citywide.
Guidelines specific to local historic districts include identifying non-historic elements, best practices for lighting and audio/visual upgrades, color palette and wayfinding/signage. The city formulated a downtown design guide regarding new construction, additions and signage. While the downtown guide does not apply to historic properties, it may apply to RIO river improvement district properties if their issues are not addressed otherwise.
Lori Houston, CCDO director, said placemaking is a tool that city staff could try to apply to other communities around San Antonio upon request. To this end, Councilmember Alan Warrick II (D2) said he could offer suggestions from his council district. He and other council members agreed Hemisfair represents a prime opportunity for placemaking and public engagement.
*Featured/top image: Rendering of the Source Plaza, which fronts Market and South Alamo Streets and allows views of Civic Park and Tower of the Americas. Structures are rendered for mass visualization. Image courtesy of Hemisfair.