A preliminary plan more than a decade in the making for a park near the historic Hays Street Bridge in San Antonio was approved by the City’s Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) with a 9-1 vote on Wednesday.
Plans for the 1.7-acre empty lot include a 10,000-square-foot skate park, open space, plazas, small playground features, shade trees, and a space for the historic bandstand relocated from Alamo Plaza. The centerpiece of the design is a “historic timeline” path that interprets the story of the bridge and the historically black and disenfranchised Eastside community around it.
“As one of the many stakeholders who attended the community engagement meetings, I can say that the design team was very receptive to the needs and wants of the community,” said Eduardo Martinez, vice president of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association. “It clearly shows in the conceptual master plan that was submitted. We are excited to see this project move forward.”
Those three, well-attended public meetings were dominated by a large population of young skateboarders from across San Antonio who advocated for a place to safely practice the sport. Most area residents agreed that a skate park could differentiate the new park from others in the area and provide an activity for the area’s youth.
A 12,000-square-foot skate park was presented at the third meeting in December, but some neighbors said that would be a little too big for such a small property.
Other park amenities include bathrooms, a drinking fountain, and picnic tables.
Office of Historic Preservation staff recommended that the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, which submitted the proposal, explore alternative locations or options to conceal the restrooms from the relocated bandstand built in 1976. That stipulation was also approved by HDRC.
A little more than one year ago, the property was slated to become an apartment building and was at the center of a lawsuit that challenged the City’s sale of the property to a private developer. When previous property owners – Berkeley and Vincent Dawson of the Anheuser-Busch franchise BudCo Ltd. – donated the land to the City in 2007 as part of the bridge restoration project, they requested that if it became a park it would carry their last name.
Hence the name for the proposed park at 803 N. Cherry St. near the iconic cycling and pedestrian bridge: Berkley V. and Vincent M. Dawson Park.
The Hays Street Bridge Restoration’s legal battle to “save the park” and the developer’s fight to get a five-story apartment complex approved by HDRC there went on for years until Mitch Meyer and the City agreed to a land swap that ultimately moved the apartments less than one mile south.
Funding for the park has not yet been identified but could come from the City’s 2022 bond program.
Parks department Director Homer Garcia, has said he hopes to find smaller funding sources to temporarily activate the space and the bandstand in the meantime.
HDRC’s vote on Wednesday was for conceptual approval of the plan. Designers will return to the commission with a more detailed plan at a later date.