Scott Ball / Rivard Report
As plans continue to develop for the revitalization of Hemisfair, the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures is planning to relocate from its building in the park to make way for a mixed-use development on the property.
Mixed-use structures and a park on the 14.7-acre property are part of the Hemisfair master plan, which is being carried out by the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corp. (HPARC). The University of Texas system, which owns the Institute of Texan Cultures, released a request for proposals to developers last week to bring the plan to fruition.
The site for the residential and commercial project is located at 801 E. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd. next to Interstate Highway 37 and across the highway from the Alamodome.
The property has been home to the popular Texas Folklife Festival for 46 years, and the 182,000 sq.-ft. Institute, with its 65,000 sq. ft. of exhibits and displays, provides cultural history and programming. It originally opened as the Texas State Exhibits Pavilion for the 1968 World’s Fair in San Antonio. Local officials considered the property as a potential site to build a Triple-A baseball stadium last year, but those plans were later put on hold.
Institute officials did not return a request for comment before publication, but provided a document about the project to the San Antonio Express-News. In their plans, developers have the option to keep the Institute on site in a 40,000-sq.-ft. structure that they would lease to the museum, according to the document. They also would need to incorporate 20,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space for the museum.
Once the Institute leases out the site to the developer, it would leave the property within the following eight months, the document states. The developer would have to decide whether to keep and renovate the existing museum, which is not designated by the City as historic. The property could, however, be turned into a hotel, apartment complex, retail structure, or office building due to its downtown zoning classification.
The Institute of Texan Cultures project is part of HPARC’s efforts to revitalize the eastern part of the park. The park’s northwest corner is already on its way to redevelopment, with the eight-acre Civic Park currently under construction, and an apartment building by local developer David Adelman and mixed-use development by Zachry Corp. slated for the area.
“We have basically concluded, internally, the contracting and most of the funding for what we call the western end [of Hemisfair],” said HPARC CEO Andrés Andujar on Thursday at the Urban Land Institute San Antonio chapter’s Texas Forum.
“The next step for us is developing the Eastern zone, the vision. We’re beginning to come up with the program for Tower Park [near the Tower of the Americas] … and we’re beginning to develop [the] Urban Design Manual, which we did for the Northwest zone. … We’re beginning to see what fits on this property and we already have concepts.”
Developers have until Aug. 2 to submit proposals for the site. Whatever design is chosen will be integrated into the park’s evolving street grid design, the first portion of which includes walkable, bike-able, and drive-able roadways, new shrubbery, and park benches, all of which was revealed to the public this spring.