The remodeled Hangar 9 at Brooks City Base.
Hangar 9 at Brooks will be honored as Best Preservation Project at the Power of Preservation Foundation's Sixth Annual PROMenade on Oct. 26. Credit: Courtesy / Brooks City Base

Throwing it back to a time of classic cars and chiffon skirts, the Power of Preservation Foundation’s (PoP) Sixth Annual PROMenade will take place on Oct. 26 at the La Villita Assembly Building. The Grease-themed event is a nod to 1959, the year that the Assembly Building, designed by O’Neil Ford, was built.

This year’s honorees are: Lewis Fisher for Vision Award for Lifetime Achievement, Stephen Yndo for Preservation Champion, and Hangar 9 for Best Preservation Project.

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Founded in 2012, PoP is a coalition of businesses, neighborhoods, and agencies that advocate for preservation in the San Antonio community. Funds raised through PROMenade benefit preservation programs of the City’s Office of Historic Preservation.

The proceeds from this year’s event, catered by Chef Jason Dady, will go toward the restoration of a historic 1906 Atlee B. Ayres-designed home in the Monte Vista Historic District, according to PoP board member Dru Van Steenberg. The timing of the celebration is also tied to the event’s host sponsor, CPS Energy, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

“PROM is incredibly special because it has blossomed organically, thanks to so many
talented people who believe passionately in historic preservation and have
nourished it with their energy and creativity,” PoP board member Andi Rodriguez said.

Vision Award for Lifetime Achievement

Fisher, Fisher Heck Architects‘ president and principal, doesn’t think of buildings as commodities.

“Architecture should be a reflection of what you want your life to be like,” said Fisher, whose firm’s mission simply reads, “Designing Community.”

A fervent advocate of community, Fisher says people often choose where they live based on factors such as privacy, good schools, and appealing scenery.

But that doesn’t give them community.

“You have to create [community] by interacting with others. That’s where architecture comes in,” he explained.

Fisher worked on several preservation projects – St. Paul Square, the La Villita restoration of 1982, and homes in King William – before starting his own firm. After serving as president of the King William Association, he started the Main Street Alliance of San Antonio, a nonprofit organization aimed at revitalizing the Southtown area. Fisher had just enough money to hire a manager and secure an office, which served as the catalyst to get things going.

“Eventually business owners began to see that … [Southtown] would be a good place to open a business … and people began to see Southtown as a place to gather,” he said. “The rest is history.”

Fisher attributes his success to a simple trait: listening.

“Listening to your clients gives you the opportunity to tailor the design to their needs and wants, and gives you a chance to try new things,” Fisher said.

Fisher is a deserving recipient of the Vision Award, PoP board member Shanon Miller said, but not just because of his well-known, large ventures.

“Perhaps more significantly, Lewis has worked on over 150 preservation projects in his career,” Miller said. “It’s these relatively small, private projects – homes and small businesses – that serve to preserve and perpetuate the historic fabric of our city.”

Preservation Champion Award

Yndo, a San Antonio native, knows the meaning of patience. Many of the projects he’s worked on – both before and after founding Yndo Commercial Real Estate Company – have taken years to come to fruition. Rushing usually does more harm than good, he said.

No matter the timeline, the work “starts with the property,” Yndo said. “It’s typically something that would strike you as being a hole in the neighborhood – a vacant building or a gap in the streetscape – that has the potential to be brought back as something … that supplies a demand not yet addressed.”

For both the St. Benedict’s and the King William lofts in Southtown, Yndo and his team ran through every possible use, from residential rental and for-sale, to hospitality, to retail/office, to self-storage, and some combination of all those.

“The ultimate use comes down to what we believe is most in demand, what is economically viable, what is desired by the neighborhood,” Yndo said.

The future of San Antonio keeps him inspired, he added.

“I think the majority of us who are doing urban projects … are taking the more difficult path because we feel it is helping to bring back life to the urban core, and that … is critically important to the future of San Antonio,” he explained.

It’s not enough to have accessible jobs and housing for families who have lived here for generations, he said. What the city needs is a uniquely San Antonio version of the urban life that more and more people are drawn to, “people with different ideas and different backgrounds that creates energy, opportunities, and excitement.

“If we don’t have it, the best and the brightest will go places that do, and we’ll find ourselves in the group of cities that compete for economic opportunities based solely on whose cheapest.”

Yndo’s favorite part of a project is the design side of development.

Coming across people who live in one of his completed projects is reassuring, he said, but seeing those people become involved in their community and make a difference “is the most rewarding.”

“Steve is one of those rare, thoughtful developers who seek to harmonize the center city,” Rodriguez said. “His sustainable urban infill and rehab projects pay respect to history, culture, and architecture and breathe new life and coolness into spaces otherwise forgotten.”

Best Preservation Project

If Hangar 9 was going to make it to its 100th birthday in 2018, it would need more than a facelift. Brooks President and CEO Leo Gomez recognized the value in both preserving its history and giving it continued life.

“I envisioned a sense of place where those in the surrounding communities could now create their own memories while honoring its past,” Gomez said.

Hangar 9 is the oldest wooden aircraft hangar of its kind still standing in its original location. At 8,700 sq. ft. and 30 feet tall, Architect Albert Kahn designed the structure to house up to eight Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” aircraft.

“Though it has long since retired from housing ‘Jenny’ aircraft, Hangar 9 still maintains its iconic appearance it had following its construction in 1918,” Gomez said.

Architect Debra Dockery, general contractor M.J. Boyle, and their preservation team set out to preserve the landmark’s integrity and honor the men and women who served in World War I and II. Restoring Hangar 9 took approximately one year and cost about $2.8 million, according to Brooks officials, and included foundation and structural repairs, electrical upgrades, installation of new windows and doors, painting and siding replacement, new paving and landscaping, and accessibility improvements.

“Hangar 9 is now the Pearl Stable of Brooks,’” Gomez said.

Van Steenberg said Hangar 9’s location in the heart of Brooks serves as a catalyst for new development, while reflecting the former Air Force base’s history. “Its new life as an entertainment and catering venue guarantees future generations of San Antonians will be able to appreciate its part in our city’s history,” she said. “We are proud to honor Hangar 9 with our 2017 Best Preservation Project.”

Annette Crawford is an Air Force veteran and has spent more than 30 years as a writer, editor, and public affairs officer. She is the house photographer at Sam’s Burger Joint & Music Hall.