Historic Review Panel Approves Hemisfair Civic Park and La Villita Projects


The History and Design Review Board on Wednesday approved two major projects intended to dramatically change the downtown landscape for locals and tourists.

The commission approved plans for the long-awaited first phase of the Civic Park in Hemisfair, the second phase of the comprehensive project to transform the former World Expo site near the Henry B. González Convention Center.

A first shovelful of earth is tentatively scheduled for early 2022 to begin construction of the park which will include utilities, paving and landscaping, landscaping, installation of water features and l integration of the park design with the Acequia Madre de Valero. City council is expected to vote on the plan at its December 9 meeting and, if approved, the park would be completed in fall 2023.

The first phase encompasses five of Civic Park’s nine acres and is positioned along the west side of the convention center. It is comparable in size to the Great Lawn and Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

The second phase was planned as a mixed-use development along South Alamo Street that would include offices, residences and parking lots, as well as a boutique hotel in the northwest quadrant of Hemisfair.

In Phase 1, a zócalo, or public plaza, in the northwest corner of the park will be a multi-purpose space large enough to host events for up to 500 people. The large, centrally located lawn can accommodate up to 10,000 people for larger events and general public use. The park also includes courtyards, gardens and smaller groves.

Renderings show a park designed to encourage movement, access and interaction with surrounding neighborhoods and urban sites.

“Hemisfair’s Civic Park is an inclusive gathering place that will be accessible to the entire community, near and far,” said Andres Andujar, CEO of Hemisfoire. “Connectivity is important to us because we are renewing the fabric of the neighborhood that existed before the 1968 World’s Fair.”

The first phase of the Civic Park in Hemisfair will develop five of the nine acres in total and provide access from the surrounding neighborhoods and the convention center. Credit: Courtesy / Kara Weaver – GGN

Hemisfair’s future plans also include redeveloping the area surrounding the Tower of the Americas. The southwestern section of the park, Yanaguana Gardens, opened in 2015.

In 2017, voters in San Antonio allocated in the 2017-22 bond program a total of $ 26 million to build the Civic Park complex and complete the streets of Hemisfair.

Of this bond money, $ 21 million will go towards the construction of Phase 1 of Civic Park. An additional $ 18 million from Hemisfair’s philanthropy and land lease income will also fund the construction of Civic Park, spokeswoman Thea Setterbo said, bringing the total price of Phase 1 to $ 39 million.

Funding for the second phase of Civic Park Phase is included in city staff recommendations for the 2022 municipal bond at $ 18 million, Setterbo said. If approved, construction will begin in 2023.

Also in the vicinity of Hemisfair, the owners of Marriott Plaza San Antonio, are planning a major renovation of the hotel located at 555 S. Alamo St. in La Villita.

Commissioners approved the plan submitted by lawyer James McKnight on behalf of White Housing and REI Real Estate Services, with one exception for a new building on the site.

Built in 1979 as a Four Seasons hotel, this 251-room hotel will receive a major exterior facelift, a new fitness center, a redesigned swimming pool and a new name, The Otis Hotel San Antonio.

“The hotel is about 40 years old and it is an opportunity to transform a good hotel into a great hotel, while retaining the importance of historic buildings on the site,” said White Lodging spokesperson Mike Banas. , in an email.

The request for the Certificate of Opportunity to Begin Renovation Work also includes plans to modify the historic Arciniega house – adding windows to the rear of the house – build a new event center near the hotel and install new signage throughout the property.

Commissioners approved the application with few stipulations, but asked the applicant to return for a design review meeting with the Office of Historic Preservation to review plans for the 1,500-foot fitness center. squares.

Currently, these plans call for the construction of a new composite cladding structure next to the historic Staffel House, but with the rear facing South Presa Street. While architect HKS agreed to switch to a smooth finish cladding as per staff recommendations, the commissioners also requested to see the building further back from the street.

A new event building at Marriott
The new construction of the Marriott Plaza aims to provide event space for what will be renamed The Otis Hotel. Credit: Courtesy / James McKnight / Brown & Ortiz

Commissioner Monica Savino also noted the lack of architectural detail in the building. “This is the one that concerns me the most because of its proximity to the Staffel House, the Staffel House being a perfect and typical example of what the historic district of La Villita is – small scale, floor plans simple, vernacular structure, masonry, ”said Savino.

“All of the other buildings in South Presa have porches and front doors,” said Jeffrey Fetzer, chairman of the HDRC. “It would be the only building that turned its back on this street.”

Terry Dammeyer of White Lodging, Head of Assets Held, asked the commission to approve plans for other parts of the project and agreed to return to the commission at a later date with a revised design of the fitness center building .

“We are looking for the certificate of suitability so that we can start the demolition of the guest room part,” Dammeyer said. “The exercise room is very flexible from our point of view.”

With the design plans for the hotel’s renovation still in progress, Banas said he could not provide a timeline for the construction. Previous reports from the company indicated that the Marriott would close in August 2020 for the construction of the Otis Hotel, but an online search indicates the hotel is available for reservations in the coming weeks.

At the end of 2019, the commission approved White Lodging’s request to build a nine-story boutique hotel at the 19th-century German-English school and a parking lot adjacent to La Villita.

Banas declined to comment specifically on these plans except to say that “more information will be forthcoming in the near future.”


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