Yanaguanga Garden conceptual rendering. Graphic courtesy of Hemisfair.
Yanaguanga Garden conceptual rendering with new business tenants. Graphic courtesy of Hemisfair.

Yanaguana Garden, the first phase of Hemisfair Park‘s multi-million dollar redevelopment, will be home to a large, interactive playscape for locals and visitors alike – largely for families – but there’s also a business side to the play. Park officials announced late Tuesday night the four small, local businesses that will set up shop in historic homes on the grounds to attract an even wider audience to compliment the activity in the park in downtown San Antonio: a paleta shop, a restaurant, a juice and coffee shop, and a microbrewery.

Each have signed three-year contracts with the Hemisfair Park Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC), the nonprofit in charge of construction, administration and management of Hemisfair, and will pay a single-digit percentage of revenue to Hemisfair for reinvestment.

“Any of the funds we collect from these businesses goes directly to maintenance, operations, and park activation,” said Drew Hicks, a spokesperson for HPARC. This arrangement “strikes a balance” between Hemisfair’s need to raise funds to sustain the park and the businesses’ need for some leeway as they startup businesses in spaces that have sat dormant for years. Details of the contracts are confidential, he said.

“The fixed, monthly lease thing just really didn’t work for us or make sense … this way (the businesses) can continue to invest in themselves and as they reach a more sustainable level, Hemisfair benefits, too,” Hicks said.

A request for interest (RFI) was released in November 2014 and 20 businesses/individuals applied for the four spots which were selected by HPARC following specific criteria. It needed to 1) be authentic to San Antonio, 2) compliment and connect to Yanaguana Garden’s family-friendly activities, and 3) be accessible to the public in terms of use and prices.

Water Street currently serves as an entrance to a parking lot in Hemisfair Park. Photo by Katherine Nickas.
Water Street currently serves as an entrance to a parking lot in Hemisfair Park, but it will soon be open through the park to vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic. Photo by Katherine Nickas.

“To contrast with the Pearl, the price point can exclude (low-income families),” he said, adding that the Pearl does offer some cheap or free activities but the restaurants, bars, and retail are higher-end. Hemisfair staff will continue to work closely with the new tenants on menus and prices, both of which are still under development.

Doing business on park land means your business has to be a public amenity, that is, it has to serve a public purpose and be something anyone could enjoy, Hicks said. For example, there will not be attorney or real estate agent offices on park land.

“The criteria was pretty difficult for a lot of businesses to fit in to,” he said, because it requires flexibility of working with Hemisfair – a very hands-on property manager – and activation of a park that is open day and night.

HPARC staff and board selected Paletería San Antonio, Con Safos, Revolucion Coffee + Juice, and San Antonio Brewing Company to move in and open before the end of the year or at least early 2016 – depending on building renovations and the complexity of tenant needs. Construction and restoration is now underway on the Koehler, Espinoza, and Pereida houses. The fourth location, the OK Bar where San Antonio B-Cycle currently offices, will have to wait until the Pereida House is ready for B-Cycle and Paletería to move in. Yanaguana Garden is on track to open in October, before the businesses open.

The Pereida House at Hemisfair Park. Photo by Rachel Holland.
The Pereida House at Hemisfair Park. Photo by Rachel Holland.

The San Antonio Brewing Company, the first-time business for Bavarian-born brewer Vera Deckard, will inhabit the OK Bar – a fitting use for the structure built as a bar in the 1890s. SABC will serve regular and seasonal beers and sodas as well as small plates and charcuterie.

“Any time we can take an historic structure and return it to its original use, we want to do that,” Hicks said.

Joey Rodriguez’s Paletería will offer agua frescas, homemade ice creams, and paletas. Revolucion Coffee + Juice, owned by Manny and Angie Carral, will bring coffee, juice, kombucha and healthy meals – including picnic baskets for snacking in the park. The cold-pressed juice bar shop also plans on hosting organized runs and yoga in Hemisfair. Con Safos is the result of a collaboration between several local chefs and entrepreneurs including Chef JC Rodriguez of Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery and Chef Drew Morros of Crossroads Southern Kitchen in Faust. The team is led by Andrea Vince and Danny Delgado. Delgado owns Hi-Tones, Faust, Phantom Room, and La Botanica.

This mix of retail represents the kind of business “ecosystem” that Hemisfair was looking for, Hicks said, a place where you could potentially spend the whole day. “Coffee and yoga in the morning with Revolucion, lunch at Con Safos, maybe a paleta (at Paletería) in the afternoon, and happy hour at the (SABC) brewery.”

The businesses have already begun to work with each other and play off event ideas and products, he said. Expect paletas at the coffee and juice shop.

Part of this collaboration has stemmed from all four businesses being accepted into a cohort of the Break Fast and Launch culinary startup program hosted by Café Commerce. Basically, participants in this first-ever culinary accelerator program get a jump start on their business models by receiving mentoring and classes on all aspects of running a business; taxes, real estate, supplies, employee management – you name it.

(Read More: Break Fast and Launch: New Culinary Business Accelerator at Café Commerce)

There will be more opportunities for commercial enterprises at Hemisfair Park as HPARC continues to renovate historic buildings; there are 24 total on site, most on park land, some not. There is also a request for qualifications (RFQ) out for the five acres of developable land on the northwest quadrant of Civic Park, phase two of the redevelopment.

developable parcels hemisfair update March 2015
Graphic courtesy of Hemisfair.

The two parcels of two and three acres include 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 HPARC 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.”

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

The third phase, Tower Park, is still in preliminary design discussions but is slated to be complete by 2020.

Completion years for Yuanaguana, Tower, and Civic parks in Hemisfair.
Completion years for Yuanaguana, Tower, and Civic parks in Hemisfair.

This story was originally published on Wednesday, June 24, 2015.

*Featured/top image: Yanaguanga Garden conceptual rendering. Graphic courtesy of Hemisfair.

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Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. She was the San Antonio Report's...