Suitors Line Up for Hemisfair Development

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Rendering of the Civic Park looking north, showing an illustration of potential Northwest Quadrant development massing. Image courtesy of Hemisfair.

Rendering of the Civic Park looking north, showing an illustration of potential Northwest Quadrant development massing. Image courtesy of Hemisfair.

The five acres of developable land that lines South Alamo and East Market streets and Civic Park in Hemisfair's master plan offer the highest visibility of all the spaces slated for redevelopment, more than 47 years after HemisFair '68.

The two parcels of two and three acres are under the western part of the Convention Center slated for demolition sometime next year and will front the city's most trafficked pedestrian corner. Their development is the biggest opportunity for developers, working with the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation and the City of San Antonio, to create a mixed-use project that helps transform downtown in the process of creating what Hemisfair planners are calling San Antonio's "front porch."

Some 50 architects, real estate developers, engineers, and business developers gathered Monday afternoon to get an in-depth look at what Hemisfair is looking for in a development partner. The public-private partnership (P3) will be one in which a developer essentially signs a long-term lease with Hemisfair for two parcels of land.

Click here to download the RFQ, which includes a full breakdown of how Hemisfair will score submissions that are due by April 6.

developable parcels hemisfair update March 2015

Hemisfair staff estimate that the land can host about 500-750,000 sq. ft. of development, an anticipated mix of public parking, mixed-income residential housing, ground floor commercial space (retail, restaurant), and the potential for office and hotel towers. A minimum 800 parking spaces must be part of all proposals.

"Our mix of uses is pretty wide open," said Omar Gonzalez, director of planning, operations, and development for Hemisfair. "We love the idea of residence, I think multi-family (housing) is something that the market is going to demand. We think office (space) would be another great use."

The ground level of any new construction should include businesses/features that further engage visitors and residents of the park, Gonzalez said, especially if it's a hotel – which comes with restrictions imposed by City Council last year.

"This is one of the best locations for a hotel," Gonzalez said. But a hotel development is restricted to 200 rooms and 400,000 sq. ft. "This is a place for San Antonians, so (City Council's) concern was that there would be too much hotel development and that would (repeat) what has already happened in downtown San Antonio. Unfortunately, it's become a place for tourism and for visitors only, and that local residents don't really enjoy it ... their reasoning was to make it allowable for something like a boutique hotel."

Rendering of the Source Plaza, which fronts Market and South Alamo Streets and allows views of the civic park and Tower of the Americas. Structures are rendered for mass visualization.

Rendering of the Source Plaza, which fronts Market and South Alamo Streets and allows views of Civic Park and the Tower of the Americas. Structures are rendered for mass visualization. Image courtesy of Hemisfair.

Hemisfair staff estimate that the developments could cost in the range of $150-$250 million.

Any housing built on Hemisfair must provide between 10-50% of workforce housing for renters earning  50-110% of the city’s annual median income.

"It can (and should) be done in a really tasteful way that melds into what else is happening in downtown San Antonio," Gonzalez said.

The request for qualifications (RFQ) is the first phase in which developers can essentially get a feel for the constraints and terms of the project, and Hemisfair staff can review a company's history, capability, and vision. A selection committee will then vet the applicants and invite three to five applicants that meet Hemisfair's criteria to submit a request for proposal – that's when firms will begin to form more specific designs.

"The RFQ process is a bit of a beauty pageant," said Ruben Rodriguez, who attended the meeting on behalf of an international development company that has dozens of offices in the U.S. "A little bit more than a beauty pageant because people can really start to see what other teams are available, and just get a general feeling for whether the process (and project) has got legs."

Rodriguez has been working with P3 deals for more than a decade, and is looking forward to finding out more about the project. What does he envision in the space?

"We'd want to do it all," he said.

Hemisfair President and CEO Andrés Andujar said no special preference will be given to local firms submitting RFQs. He also said Hemisfair will not release the names of committee members reviewing the RFQs and making the selections for a smaller field to submit proposals. Ultimately, the design proposals will go before the Hemisfair board and City staff and eventually to City Council.

If all goes as planned, construction of this development could begin as soon as Fall 2016 with completion in late 2018.

One proposed mixed-use development for Water Street inside the park is in the negotiation phase, and an announcement will soon be made on which company won that contract. This development is expected to include 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.

Future commercial tenants of the historic homes on Hemisfair grounds also have been selected, Gonzalez said. While he did not release their names, he said the short list included an ice cream and artesian paleta shop, a coffee and juice shop, a microbrewery, and a restaurant/bar.

Andujar recently gave a presentation to City Council with an update on Hemisfair projects. Click here to read more.

Related Stories:

Hemisfair Seeking Partners for Mixed-Use Development

Check Out Hemisfair’s Evolving Civic Park

Hemisfair Seeks Local Businesses to Fill Historic Homes

Hemisfair Park Ready to Mix a Little History and Business

City Seeks Developers for Housing at Hemisfair

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