On vibrant clay tiles in the tradition of San Jose Pottery, a wall map at the planned World Heritage Center will show visitors where each historic mission is situated along the San Antonio River, and just beyond the arched doorways, a trail will lead them there. 

Those plans moved a step closer to reality Wednesday when the Historic and Design Review Commission approved issuing a certificate of appropriateness for the project.

The commission gave conceptual approval for the project in 2021. Construction is scheduled to start later this year and work is expected to be completed in late 2023.

The World Heritage Center is designed to serve as a gateway to the San Antonio Missions Historical Park, designated in 2015 as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the only one in Texas. 

Through self-guided tours, visitors will learn more about the history, art and culture of the community around the missions as well as hear the stories of the people who have lived there throughout history to the present day.

The center will be located at Mission Marquee Plaza, 3100 Roosevelt Ave., adjacent to the Mission Marquee Drive-In, the Mission Branch Library and the Harvey E. Najim YMCA. 

The 10,077-square-foot structure with indoor and outdoor space was designed by Dunaway Associates, a planning and landscape architecture firm with offices throughout the state, and Muñoz & Company, the San Antonio firm behind the Mission Branch Library. 

The $9.5 million project is being funded through two propositions in the 2017 bond and with an $845,000 gift from the Tricentennial Commission for the art, design enhancements and interpretive elements of the center.

The City of San Antonio will own and operate the center and Witte Museum staff will design and oversee the interpretive plan, which details the visitor experience, exhibitions, opportunities for interpretive programs and facilities.

The World Heritage Center is planned as an experience unique from the visitor center at Mission San José, which is operated by the National Park Service, and another under development at Mission Concepción run by the Archdiocese of San Antonio. 

The center is scheduled to open in 2024.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.