Hemisfair received a $1 million gift to construct a garden along East Nueva Street, pictured in the rendering here, which stretches between two of Hemisfair's three parks: Yanaguana Garden and the future Civic Park. Credit: Courtesy / Hemisfair

San Antonians soon will have a new million-dollar garden to enjoy downtown, thanks to a record-setting donation from the Mays Family Foundation.

Hemisfair announced Tuesday it had received a $1 million gift from the San Antonio-based foundation to construct a garden along East Nueva Street, which stretches between two of Hemisfair’s three parks: Yanaguana Garden and the future Civic Park.

The donation is the first seven-figure donation received by the Hemisfair Conservancy, according to a joint press statement from Hemisfair and the foundation.

The garden, which will be named the Peggy Mays Garden in honor of the family’s matriarch who died this year, will include small trails and rest areas with a mix of plant species to attract pollinators, the statement said.

“My mother was devoted to adding beauty and improving life for all San Antonians,” Kathy Mays Johnson said. “Our family cannot think of a better way to honor her than with these exquisite gardens at Hemisfair that everyone can enjoy for generations.”

Johnson said she can recall going to Hemisfair shortly after it opened with her parents and has fond memories there. Hemisfair was a special place in her mother’s heart, and Peggy would have strongly approved of the donation, Johnson said.

The donation will fund the design, construction, and maintenance of the garden, including planting, trees, and lighting, said Anne Krause, executive director of the Hemisfair Conservancy.

“It has been a tumultuous year as you can imagine, and this is just such a wonderful way to culminate this year,” Krause said. “We’re so grateful to the Mays family and the foundation for this very meaningful gift.”

The garden design will finalized in the coming months, with construction anticipated to begin in late 2021. It will be situated along the northern end of Yanaguana Garden and on the southern end of Civic Park, Krause said.

Hoping to match downtown San Antonio’s existing aesthetics, garden designers have looked to the King William District for inspiration, Krause said.

“Now that we’re redeveloping Hemisfair into an urban parks district, we want it to be very porous and very inviting so that people can enter from all over,” Krause said. “So we are very excited about this gift because it’s not just the gift in and of itself … [but also because] we are building fundraising momentum to help build the future Civic Park.”

Civic Park is projected to open in 2022, with designs expected to go before the City Council for approval in the next month or so, said Thea Setterbo, director of marketing for the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corp.

“We utilized the pause created by the pandemic to concentrate on design and construction projects at Hemisfair, results of which will be visible to the public in 2021,” Setterbo stated in an email. “We’re still in active negotiations for development around the northwest zone perimeter of Civic Park, which ultimately impacts construction of the park itself. However, we’re working with the City to phase construction, and will have an update … coming to council early next year.”

Also scheduled to take place in Hemisfair in 2021 are the addition of several new business tenants, the restoration of the Kusch House, the development of design concepts for Hemisfair’s Tower Park, and the restoration of more historic homes, Setterbo said.

“There will be a lot of moving pieces in 2021,” she said.

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.