Hemisfair‘s reactivation efforts moved one step closer to fruition Wednesday, when a newly improved street in the park was officially opened to the public.
The portion of East Nueva Street originating at South Alamo Street and bordering Yanaguana Garden was brought to life with various vendors, City and Hemisfair officials, and other stakeholders celebrating the roadway’s transformation into a “complete street,” which is cyclist-, pedestrian-, and wheel chair-friendly.
The hope for that street, and the adjacent Hemisfair Boulevard that is nearing completion, is to activate the park by providing better connectivity to its amenities and to the surrounding neighborhoods, as it did once did.
“This really shows the re-establishment of the neighborhood that existed here before the [World’s] Fair,” Hemisfair CEO Andres Andujar said. “We are intent not only on expanding the park and improving its quality, but also [on bringing] the residential density that existed in this neighborhood before the fair.”
The $15 million effort, funded by the 2012 bond, brought widened sidewalks, increased lighting and shade, public art, and seating to the street along with the portion of Hemisfair Boulevard that intersects with it and connects to César E. Chávez Boulevard.
Both roadways will eventually accommodate two-way vehicular traffic traveling at 5 mph through the park once the multi-family development Acequia Lofts, which faces Hemisfair Boulevard, opens in late 2018 or early 2019, Andujar said.
East Nueva Street and Hemisfair Boulevard, formerly known as Water Street, are just two of several roadways within Hemisfair that disappeared nearly 50 years ago amid construction of HemisFair ’68. Officials have been planning to reimplement those roads as “complete streets” that will draw more pedestrians to enjoy the park and its future retail, food, health, and other assets.
Officials hope to obtain the City staff-recommended $5 million from the 2017 bond to fund the next phase of Hemisfair Boulevard, Andujar said, which would extend past the Instituto Cultural de México, in front of the Tower of the Americas, all the way to Montana Street.
City officials aim to stretch the 2017 bond funds as much as possible and use other funding sources to turn other internal park streets such as Labor, Indianola, and Matagorda streets into “complete streets” over time, Transportation and Capital Improvements Department Director Mike Frisbie said. They also envision stretching East Nueva Street through the park to Labor Street.
The road improvements, which included underground utilities and street lighting, took longer than expected because the construction team found remnants of the acequia, the original water source to the Spanish-colonial Missions, which they preserved, said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1).
“We truly treasure Hemisfair, its past, its present, and its future,” Mayor Ivy Taylor said. “As we mark today’s newest improvements let’s continue to preserve and uphold its legacy as part of the the heart of San Antonio going forward.”
Hemisfair’s activation effort is a multifaceted effort that includes implementing an 8-acre Civic Park surrounded by apartments, offices, shops, restaurants, and cafés. The initiative also included the creation of the $8 million Yanaguana Garden, which opened in 2015, and the renovation of 10 historic houses in the park that will become home to “park activating” tenants, who will be determined over the next few years, said Omar Gonzalez, Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC) director of real estate.