Florida’s Selby Gardens to offer world’s first net-positive restaurant

The Green Orchid will generate more energy than it consumes

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida has opened a new “garden-to-table” restaurant called the Green Orchid.

Designed by Overland Partners and operated by Michael’s On East, the eatery is powered by solar energy. Per a press release, it will be the world’s first net-positive restaurant, generating more energy than it consumes.

Fresh produce is supplied to the Green Orchid by the botanical gardens‘ new edible garden, which is adjacent to the restaurant.

“The new restaurant is a great fit for Selby Gardens, with a focus on sustainability and providing wonderful dishes with ingredients from local farms and our rooftop garden,” said Jennifer Rominiecki, president and CEO of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

“Our goal is to be best-in-class in everything we do, and the Green Orchid more than meets that standard.”

The restaurant’s kitchen features state-of-the-art electric and induction cooking facilities, with no gas or flame used. Instead, electromagnetic fields heat pots and pans directly.

Garden-to-table dining

“We are focused on making the garden-to-table offerings at the Green Orchid both fresh and distinctive,” said Michael Klauber, co-proprietor of Michael’s On East.

He added: “Doing garden-to-table well – especially while using electric and induction cooking techniques – requires a high level of skill and inventiveness. We believe that visitors will be impressed.”

The Green Orchid is part of the first phase of a three-phase expansion plan for Selby Garden’s downtown Sarasota campus. It is located in the Living Energy Access Facility (LEAF), which has a 50,000-square-foot solar array.

Images courtesy of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

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2023 Studio Awards: Binational River Conservation Project

Binational River Conservation Project
Overland Partners with Able City, OLIN Studios, and ARUP

The people of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo have shared an identity for centuries; in recent years, that relationship has been strained. Looking to binational conservation as a catalyst for positive environmental, social, and economic change, the communities have imagined a shared green space to reunite them along the banks of the Rio Grande. A public-private consortium of community leaders and conservationists from the two cities developed a strategic plan that begins with cleaning and restoring the Rio Grande and creating a Binational River Park to reconnect people, shared resources, and cultural ties. The project will secure clean, safe drinking water for the region’s six million people, restore riparian habitats for native plants and animals, mitigate flooding and erosion of the riverbank, and attract visitors and private investment to the area.

Jury Commentary:

“I was really touched by the poetic aspect of using a river as a bridge and dealing with the challenges of our politics and where architecture and urban planning can make a significant impact. … You can use a project with an infrastructure goal like this to really change the needle and make the world a better place.”

“It’s significant to rethink the border as a public space — and to rethink divisions from a completely different lens and introduce ecological issues into how we approach the border is what is really important about this module.”

Read original article on Texas Architect.

OLIN, Overland, and Kimley-Horn complete the first phase of a master plan to revamp the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

The new welcome center at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is informed by trees. (Ryan Gamma Photography)


It’s only logical that a botanical garden has plants and greenery hung from nearly every wall and wedged into its every crevice. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in SarasotaFlorida is no exception to this maxim; the 45-acre complex renowned for its collection of air plants has just come out of the first phase of a master plan to make the campus more sustainable and to enrich its 50-year history researching and educating the public on air plants.

The botanical garden was founded in 1973 when philanthropist and gardener Marie Selby handed over her residence and property, which later became the gardens. The master plan was first announced in 2017. It encompasses three phases that have been led by a team of design consultants, including OLIN as landscape and masterplan lead; Overland as architect and design lead; Kimley-Horn as site engineer and community liaison; and Sweet Sparkman as local architects.

In the Research Center atrium are custom-made metal and wood stairways (Ryan Gamma Photography)

Phase one of the multiyear project focused on adding 188,030 square feet of space to the existing campus through a new visitor welcome center, research building, shop and restaurant. The forthcoming second and third phases build on the resiliency and sustainability efforts implemented throughout this first phase, with the construction of a hurricane-resilient greenhouse and sea wall construction.

The Jean Goldstein Welcome Center is one of the three buildings to be completed in phase one. The structure, anchored by a curved canopy roof, has become the new focal point of the botanical garden. Steel trusses holding up the swooping wood canopy roof recall the form of tree branches. Bromeliads, orchids and other air plants dangle from the rafters above an expanse of pavers planted with garden beds. Inside, a new ticketing counter has become the first point of entry for guests and plant enthusiasts, while the welcome gallery serves as a primer on the world of plants and gardening.

Research work happens in the new laboratory spaces. (Ryan Gamma Photography)

Adjacent to the welcome center is the Steinwachs Family Plant Research Center. It dons a limestone facade wall that echoes that of the welcome center, two-story-tall plant wall, and roof lined with planters and an array of solar panels. Here, a theater, research laboratories, and offices wrap around a central atrium formed by several mezzanine levels connected via custom-designed steel and wood stairways. A library houses a collection of rare books and on the top floor is a hurricane-proof herbarium and spirits collection.

Among the new spaces is a library that houses a collection of rare books. (Ryan Gamma Photography)

The third of the three facilities realized in phase one was the Morganroth Living Energy Access Facility, LEAF for short. It combines three programs into one building that the gardens dubbed as the “real powerhouse of the project” in a press release. Part parking garage, part restaurant, and part gift shop, like its neighbors, the building was drawn up as a model of sustainability. Solar panels, totaling 50,000 square feet, atop the building are slated to produce 1.23 million kilowatt-hours of power, more than enough to power the building and offset nearly 1,000 tons of CO2 each year, this is the equivalent of powering 148 U.S. homes. According to the botanical garden theses facts alone make it the “first net-positive energy Botanical complex in the world,”—giving the New York Botanical Gardens’s new Site Operations Center, aiming to be the first “net-positive energy” facility in the Bronx, a lot to live up to.

The LEAF building aims to be the first net-positive energy botanical complex in the world (Ryan Gamma Photography)

The Green Orchid, a new eatery for the botanical garden takes farm-to-table to a new level (literally) with a “roof-to-plate” food concept. Gardens atop the LEAF building grow herbs, vegetables, and fruit for use as cooking ingredients in a seasonally changing menu. The kitchens are 100 percent run on electricity and in combination with the solar panels, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens also claim that The Green Orchid is “the world’s first net-positive energy restaurant.”

Ingredients for meals served at The Green Orchid are gown on the roof of the LEAF building. (Ryan Gamma Photography)

Windows enveloping the dining area capture nature, which is further drawn inside through the installation of planter boxes. The wooden planks used to form the rather sculptural cypress and pine ceiling were taken from trees around the site, uprooted and moved during the construction process. Overland worked with Selby and local artists and woodworker Ryan Tremblay across the campus to find ways to reuse the trees in the design. Other implemented examples include a mahogany boardroom table and usage within the public spaces of the Research Building.

Campus-wide water is collected from the buildings and ground and circulated through bioswales and used to cultivate the plantings or routed into the nearby Hudson Bayou.

The gift shop is flanked by large windows. (Ryan Gamma Photography)

An anticipated timeline for the start and completion of the second and third phases will be announced soon. In addition to sustainability improvements, the forthcoming phases will see the restoration of the Payne Mansion, a new learning pavilion for education use, and rethinking the circulation paths throughout the campus.

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Zachry Hospitality Announces Name and Breaks Ground on New Hotel in Downtown San Antonio: The Monarch San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO, TX (November 14, 2023) – Zachry Hospitality is pleased to announce it officially broke
ground on the highly anticipated Curio Collection by Hilton hotel in downtown San Antonio. The new
200-room, 17-story boutique hotel located at Hemisfair has officially been named The Monarch San
Antonio. The Monarch is set to open in early 2026.

Named for the Monarch butterfly that migrates through the San Antonio region each winter, the hotel is
designed to be a convergence point for visitors and locals alike, drawing people together through
enlivened interiors that reflect the journey of the butterfly. The hotel will welcome guests into Hemisfair
with open spaces to gather, retail spaces, numerous food and beverage concepts and more. Sustainable
design elements can be found in the native stone, lush vegetation and water features integrated
throughout the design, reflecting the natural elements created by the Balcones Escarpment that runs
through the region.

“We are extremely excited to begin building this project on the edge of Civic Park, a one-of-a-kind
destination in our downtown,” said Zachry Corporation CEO and President David Zachry. “In 1968, my
grandfather built a hotel across the street from our site; with planning and creativity, the Palacio del Rio
hotel was built in just 202 working days. With our new project, the same attention to the details has been
at the forefront of what our team is about to begin constructing. We are working with our architects,
designers, and contractor to develop a unique destination in an urban setting, overlooking a beautiful new
downtown oasis in San Antonio. We look forward to opening our project in early 2026 to share our vision
of luxury and style, creating memorable experiences in one of the newest settings within our historic
downtown area.”

In addition to luxury guest rooms, the hotel will feature a modern full-service spa, a terrace pool, five food
and beverage concepts with indoor and outdoor service, including a rooftop restaurant and bar and a
basement speakeasy, as well as a garden area, fitness center and approximately 10,000 square feet of
meeting and event space. The curved tower is oriented to provide guests with panoramic views of the
park to the east and city views overlooking the River Walk, La Villita, the Tower of the Americas and the
coming entry to the Alamo and museum.

“The Monarch San Antonio will mark the exciting debut of Curio Collection by Hilton in this historically rich
city, and we look forward to seeing it come to life in partnership with Zachry Hospitality,” said Jenna
Hackett, brand leader, Curio Collection by Hilton. “With its remarkable narrative and distinct design, The
Monarch San Antonio will offer a bespoke experience that nods to the neighborhood and immerse guests
in one-of-a-kind moments.”

The Monarch will sit on approximately 1.5 acres of land across the street from the famous Hilton Palacio
del Rio hotel that was built in record-breaking time by Zachry in time for the World’s Fair in 1968. As was
the case with the Hilton Palacio del Rio, Zachry will both own and operate The Monarch. San
Antonio-based architecture firm Overland Partners was brought in to help design the hotel and The Gettys
Group was tasked with the interior design and branding of the hotel. Zachry has engaged Whiting Turner
Construction as the general contractor.

“Today, we stand amidst the awe-inspiring beauty of Hemisfair to celebrate not only the construction of a
remarkable building, but the realization of a dream to blend the rich history, native ecology and vibrant
culture of San Antonio with innovative, sustainable design,” said Overland Project Principal Michael
Monceaux, AIA. “The new Monarch Hotel is designed to connect guests to each other, to the park and to
the surrounding community, embracing the true essence and hospitality of this great city to create lasting

The Monarch will be located at 222 S. Alamo Street, San Antonio, Texas, 78205, at the intersection of
South Alamo and Market streets in downtown San Antonio, within walking distance to the convention
center, Hemisfair, the Alamo, La Villita, the River Walk and numerous other San Antonio attractions.
“We could not be more excited for Zachry Hospitality to break ground on the newest addition to the
Hemisfair District,” said Hemisfair CEO Andres Andujar. “This hotel clearly delivers on the benefits of a
mixed-use district, and also delivers on the expectation of a beautiful addition to the San Antonio skyline.
Our sincere congratulations to Zachry Hospitality on this important milestone.”

Additional information about the hotel will be announced as the project progresses. To stay up to date with
the hotel’s progress, follow along on Facebook and Instagram.

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As an affiliate within the Zachry family of companies, San Antonio-based Zachry Hospitality is rooted in
nearly 100 years of family values and service. A proven leader in the development, management, and
ownership of hotel and hospitality properties, Zachry Hospitality has a reputation of excellence for our
commitment to creating extraordinary guest experiences and lasting memories tailored to the specific
needs of our guests. We are a company of dreamers and builders, and in the business of turning dreams
into reality. For more information, visit

Curio Collection by Hilton is a global portfolio of more than 145 individually remarkable hotels hand-picked
to immerse guests in one-of-a-kind moments in the world’s most sought-after destinations. Each hotel in
the Curio Collection evokes a bespoke story through distinctive architecture and design, world-class food
& beverage and curated experiences, while providing the benefits of Hilton and its award-winning guest
loyalty program Hilton Honors. Experience Curio Collection by Hilton by booking at or
through the industry-leading Hilton Honors app. Hilton Honors members who book directly through
preferred Hilton channels have access to instant benefits. Learn more about Curio Collection by Hilton at, and follow the brand on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC) was created by City Council in 2009 to
redevelop the former site of the 1968 World’s Fair in San Antonio, Texas. HPARC is dedicated to the
transformation of Hemisfair into a sustainable, self-funded urban district with residences, local
businesses, unique programming and three parks—Yanaguana Garden, Civic Park (Phase II) and Tower
Park (Phase III). Hemisfair is where San Antonio meets: it is a vibrant gathering place for a day with
friends and the city’s biggest celebrations. HPARC is a 501(c)3 local government corporation, supported
in part by the Hemisfair Conservancy, an independent 501(c)3. For more information, visit
and follow @hemisfair.

Overland Partners delivers dynamic, comprehensive design services in architecture, master planning, and
urban design throughout the world. With offices in Dallas and San Antonio, Overland’s notable spirit of
collaboration brings their clients’ wisdom to center stage, integrating technology, art, and craft to create
world-class, innovative, and sustainable solutions for highly complex projects. For more information, visit

Texan by Nature Unveils the 2023 Texan by Nature 20

Companies Operating Across the State of Texas Recognized in the TxN 20 for Their Leadership in Conservation & Sustainability

AUSTIN, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Texan by Nature (TxN), a Texas-led conservation non-profit founded by former First Lady Laura Bush, today announced 20 honorees of the 5th annual Texan by Nature 20 (TxN 20) – an official ranking of companies with Texas operations that have made a demonstrative commitment to conservation.

The TxN 20 recognizes the best and most innovative work in conservation coming from business based or operating in Texas. As part of the TxN 20, Texan by Nature honors companies across 12 industries in the Lone Star State whose ingenuity cultivates impactful programs and forges new, beneficial paths in conservation. With 171 million acres of land and global leadership across multiple industries, Texas is fortunate to have industry leaders who see the value in partnering with conservation initiatives while also developing innovative, environmentally sustainable methods and processes within their business.

“We believe in building an environmentally sustainable future through actions, collaborations, and innovative models in conservation,” said Joni Carswell, CEO & President of Texan by Nature. “It is an honor to celebrate the Texas-based industry leaders that share these values and prove the transformative benefits of pairing business resources with conservation efforts to impact the globe.” 

A catalyst for thought leadership, innovative partnerships, and community-led solutions, Texan by Nature has been working with the Texas business community to implement Texas-led conservation practices. The TxN 20 provides not only recognition to honorees, but a catalogue of best practices and metrics to industry peers. The honoree’s commitment to conservation, their projects and programs, best practices, and lessons learned are examples and inspiration for us all.

“I’m happy to celebrate this year’s TxN 20! And I encourage other companies to follow their example and engage in conservation. Together, we can contribute to our prosperous economy, protect our rich natural resources, and ensure that Texas has a bright and beautiful future for our children and grandchildren to enjoy,” said former First Lady and Texan by Nature Founder, Laura Bush.

The 2023 TxN 20 is catalyzed by Jetco Delivery. “With our investment in the TxN 20, we hope to amplify cross-industry innovations and actions that will inspire and propel businesses toward a sustainable future,” said Kyle Kristynik, President at Jetco.

To select the 2023 TxN 20, company data submissions were evaluated and independent research across 2,000+ of Texas’ publicly traded and private companies was conducted for 12 industry sectors. All companies were evaluated on key criteria through a 17-point scoring system to narrow down the list to the top 60 companies in Texas. Key scoring criteria included: stated commitment to conservation; reported metrics related to conservation; measured investment in conservation; reported Return on ConservationTM results; positive conservation impact on land, water, wildlife, people, waste, energy, and more; and activities such as infrastructure, production and supply chain, employee engagement, and more. Each year, an esteemed selection committee of top industry leaders is formed to evaluate the top 60 companies and select the final honorees for the TxN 20. TxN 20 selection and recognition is also supported by HOLT CAT. 


  1. Alamo Group
  2. Cemex
  3. Cirrus Logic
  4. CPS Energy
  5. Darling Ingredients
  6. Desert Door Sotol
  7. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
  9. JP Morgan 
  10. Mary Kay
  11. Microsoft
  12. NextEra Energy
  13. North American Development Bank
  14. Ørsted 
  15. Overland Partners
  16. PepsiCo
  17. Stantec
  18. Texas Health Resources
  19. Wayne Sanderson Farms
  20. WM

To read more about each 2023 TxN 20 honoree, please visit:

The TxN 20 2023 Selection Committee members included:

  • Rick Archer, Founding Principal – Overland Partners
  • Andrejs E. Avots-Avotins, MD, PhD, The Elizabeth & Drayton McLane, Jr. Chair in Health & Wellness Vice President of Medical Affairs – Baylor Scott & White Health – Temple
  • Zach Baumer, Interim Chief Sustainability Officer – City of Austin
  • Tracee Bentley, President & CEO – Permian Strategic Partnership

Activating new investments, amplifying and accelerating innovations, and connecting partners to the resources they need to succeed, Texan by Nature offers select programs to help engage Texans in stewardship of the state’s rich land and diverse communities including the Conservation Wrangler program, TxN Certification, the Conservation Summit, Symposia series,the TxN 20, and select statewide initiatives. For more information on TxN partnerships and programs, or to learn how to get involved, please visit


Texan by Nature (TxN) brings conservation and business together to advance conservation – positively impacting natural resources, prosperity, and health across Texas and beyond. TxN partners deeply with conservation groups and business, acting as an accelerator for conservation groups and a strategic partner for business. Their projects and programs have impacted 7M+ people, 19.5M acres, and all of Texas’ 254 counties over the last 2 years. Get involved and learn more at and follow on Facebook @TexanbyNature, Twitter @TexanbyNature, and Instagram @texanbynature.


Audrey Ponzio  


Karina Araujo


Fair Park partners unveil $140M plans to renovate Cotton Bowl Stadium

Dallas’ Cotton Bowl Stadium and surrounding Fair Park area are slated for upgrades in the coming years.

What happened

Fair Park First and Dallas Park and Recreation have revealed plans to renovate parts of the 277-acre fairgrounds, according to an Oct. 6 news release. Renovations will focus on the stadium, a privately funded community park and Music Hall at Fair Park.

“This is the first cog in the wheel of a greater mechanism, providing funding for the future of the campus,” said Darren James, Fair Park First board president, in a statement. “Unlike previous renovations, which centered around increasing capacity, this project amplifies the fan experience for everyone who visits Fair Park.”

A groundbreaking date for the projects has not been determined yet, Fair Park First CEO Brian Luallen said.

The specifics

Renovations to the Cotton Bowl Stadium will occur in two phases over two years, according to the news release. The $140 million project aims to enhance visitor experience and modernize some aspects of the stadium.

Planned improvements include:

Read the original article on Community Impact.

Overland Partners Architects Unveil New Renderings for Conservation-Focused Zion National Park Discovery Center

Overland Partners Architects Prioritize Conservation in Designs for New Zion National Park Discovery Center at the East Gateway Firm Unveils New Renderings During Zion National Park Forever Project’s Celebration for Construction Kick-off

SAN ANTONIO (AUG. 31, 2023) —Design architects from Overland Partners, with architect of record, Place Collaborative, showcased renderings of the Zion National Park Discovery Center during a ceremony held in East Zion, Utah, on August 22, 2023. Led by Zion National Park Forever Project members, attendees included Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox, officials from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Utah Office of Tourism, and special guests from the local community. The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, and Shivwits Band of Paiutes were valued collaborators and present at the celebration, with Shivwits Elder, Karma Grayman, providing a land blessing preceding the event.  

Following more than ten years of collaborative planning, the ceremony officially marks the start of construction for the Zion National Park Discovery Center project. Positioned on 19 privately-owned, donated acres just outside the east entrance to the park, the location protects the area from potential commercial development. With a dedication to preserving the remarkable beauty of the landscape, the Zion National Park Discovery Center will serve as a model for cultivating a connection between people and the land while instilling a profound respect for the environment among future generations through immersive learning opportunities.  

The 22,000 square foot Discovery Center will offer free, hands-on educational experiences for visitors of all ages, encouraging them to explore the area’s diverse history, native ecology, stunning geology, and agricultural heritage while cultivating a deep sense of connection to the place. 

“Our shared commitment to create an authentic entry experience leading to Zion National Park is evident in the meticulous attention to preserving, conserving, and seamlessly integrating structures into the landscape,” stated James Lancaster, principal architect at Overland Partners leading the Discovery Center project. “We aimed to design a place that sits lightly on the land, celebrating the iconic natural beauty of Zion,” he said. 


Informed by the remarkable geologic formations of the region, views from the Discovery Center site are framed by sandstone cliffs, intricate canyons, and expansive desert plateaus. Designed to be a model for conservation-focused development, regenerative design, and ecosystem-based living, the building will be constructed using cross-laminated and heavy timber, aiming for all wood to be Forest Steward Council (FSC) certified. Finishes will reflect the natural colors and textures found throughout Zion’s semi-arid climate, including locally quarried sandstone, reclaimed wood finishes, and weathered steel that compose the building envelopes.  

By incorporating passive design strategies, the Discovery Center’s integration of indoor and outdoor spaces will provide guests with comfortable spaces to gather throughout the year, supported by efficient mechanical systems when needed. Outdoor amenities encompass versatile spaces tailored to offer thermal comfort choices suitable for every season. The architecture and positioning of the structures on the site prioritizes panoramic view corridors, the utilization of natural daylight, and prevailing breezes. During summer months, exterior walls retract, and downdraft towers facilitate natural evaporative cooling. In contrast, porch overhangs are designed to welcome the gentle warmth of the low winter sun into the space during colder months, and a communal outdoor fire pit can be enjoyed during cold nights. Through a series of operable clerestory windows, daylight is channeled into the interior year-round. Green roofs on connecting corridors bring natural insulation, while a rainwater capture system will be used for landscape irrigation. 

The Discovery Center establishes a gateway experience to Zion National Park, Utah’s first national park established in 1919, and the nation’s third most popular national park, as it hosted nearly five million visitors in 2022 ( The park encompasses nearly 150,000 acres of diverse terrain—red rock desert, towering forests, and spectacular vistas with hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails. Focused on conservation and broadening recreational access, the Discovery Center will also function as a transit hub, linking visitors to over 70 miles of new trails. Presently, almost 80 percent of the park’s annual visitors enter through Zion’s south entrance in Springdale. The east gateway aims to ease congestion during peak seasons. 

Funding for the Discovery Center was provided in large part by a $15 million bond to the local service district by the Permanent Community Impact Fund Board of the Department of Workforce Service with a $10 million investment by the Utah Department of Transport to construct the needed road system.  

The site will be enhanced with an eco-sensitive landscape plan by Island Planning Corporation, inviting visitors of all ages to learn about agroforestry, interact with nature, and participate in harvesting of edible plants. Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds will design engaging play settings that promote children’s development through immersive experiences with nature. These spaces will be thoughtfully crafted to reflect the distinctive local characteristics of the area. 


Overland Partners delivers dynamic, comprehensive design services in architecture, master planning, and urban design throughout the world. With offices in Dallas, Denver, San Antonio, and New York, Overland’s notable spirit of collaboration brings their clients’ wisdom to center stage, integrating technology, art, and craft to create world-class, innovative, and sustainable solutions for complex projects that care for the Earth and promote human flourishing. For more information, visit  

The Zion Forever Project is the official non-profit partner of Zion National Park, Cedar Breaks, and Pipe Spring National Monuments. The momentum behind the Forever Project has generated funding, partnerships, and community support from organizations and park enthusiasts throughout the state and beyond, reflecting the project’s goals to unite park, community, and state resources to address visitation and park protection issues. Visit to join in the mission of stewardship for Zion National Park. 

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San Pedro II design continues focus on sustainable future for downtown San Antonio

AUGUST 24, 2023 — The University of Texas System Board of Regents recently approved an update to the funding for the San Pedro II development project, previously approved in November 2022.

The UT System follows a prescribed funding and approval process for major building projects. With this latest step in the process, the San Pedro II project is now able to move from the design development phase to the construction phase.

Overland Partners, in collaboration with Gensler, is leading the design vision and development of the project. Teams will now begin preparing the site for construction, with an official groundbreaking scheduled for early 2024.

“I’m immensely grateful for the support of UT System’s Board of Regents and their approval of additional funding to further expand our downtown footprint with San Pedro II, advancing experiential learning opportunities for our students and enhancing the talent pipeline for San Antonio and Texas,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “UTSA leads the future with our clear focus on immersive, hands-on learning experiences for our students to further drive talent development for our city and region.”

Seamlessly integrated into UTSA’s Downtown Campus expansion, San Pedro II will work in tandem with academic programs and research collaborations in cybersecurity and data science offered by the School of Data Science and National Security Collaboration Center in San Pedro I, which opened in January 2023 and is located across San Pedro Creek.

“San Pedro II is an important milestone in actualizing UTSA’s downtown vision.”

Like San Pedro I, UTSA’s first LEED certified building, San Pedro II will follow a design guided by stewardship and sustainability. Additionally, the design of both buildings reflects UTSA’s commitment to the design, construction and operation of sustainable environments to create the best learning spaces for students, faculty, and staff.

The two buildings are part of larger placemaking efforts to revitalize this historic area of downtown, which includes the recent redevelopment of the San Pedro Creek Culture Park and the future Continental Hotel revitalization. San Pedro I and II will connect classrooms and meeting spaces inside with the outdoor venues and public art of the park, creating an ecosystem that supports students and the community.

“San Pedro II is an important milestone in actualizing UTSA’s downtown vision,” said UTSA Senior Vice President for Business Affairs and Chief Enterprise Development Officer Veronica Salazar. “We are working to create meaningful connections between the university, downtown industry, and cultural destinations that will benefit UTSA students by enhancing experiential learning opportunities.”

The new building is supported by investments of $52,409,972 from State of Texas Tuition Revenue Bond proceeds and $72,000,000 from University of Texas System Permanent University Fund bond proceeds. The BOR approved additional funding in the amount of $6,500,000 from Revenue Financing System Bonds, bringing the project total to $130,909,972. The increase in the total project cost is due to rising construction costs nationally.

Read the full article in UTSA Today. 

San Antonio Report: Experts weigh in on a downtown sports district in San Antonio

What would it take to develop a sports district in downtown San Antonio?

Rumors of building a new ballpark and arena downtown have been swirling for months with the owners of San Antonio’s baseball and basketball teams and city officials reportedly in talks to get the ball moving.

Where that sports district would go is the big question.

An expert who has been designing stadiums and arenas in cities around the world for over 30 years says it’s possible to put an arena and ballpark in San Antonio’s inner city.

In fact, despite limited available land with the right dimensions in the urban core, downtown offers some major advantages over suburban areas, said Bryan Trubey, a principal in the San Antonio architecture firm Overland Partners and an established expert in sports facility design.

The Dallas-based architect has been developing sports venues since early in his career, starting with Hong Kong Stadium. Among his many projects while with firms HOK, HKS and now Overland are Miller Park, now American Family Field, in Milwaukee; SoFi Stadium near Los Angeles; the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, and Victory Park in Dallas, which includes American Airlines Center, where the Dallas Mavericks play.

Nationally, there’s been a focus on putting sports venues near or within the city center, and it has to do with economics, Trubey said.

“If you can put a new asset that’s significant, like a sports entertainment venue, directly adjacent to long-term historical investment in the urban core, you get a multiplier effect,” he said. “That can be significant over time.”

Bryan Trubey
Bryan Trubey Credit: Courtesy / Overland Partners

New players, new venues?

Speculation over a new home court for the San Antonio Spurs expanded in June when the team scored Victor Wembanyama as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.

Also coming off the bench are relocation plans for the San Antonio Missions.

When the baseball team’s new ownership group announced late last year it will have to build a new larger ballpark to remain in compliance with Minor League rules, it set off a flurry of forecasting.

Most theories have the team moving from the Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium on the West Side into the urban core even after landowners spurned one attempt by investors to buy up land along West Martin Street.

A sports venue in the downtown area has been discussed since at least 2016 when city officials commissioned a feasibility study that found seven potential sites for a stadium, all of which were downtown.

Reports state those talks have resumed under the leadership of Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Manager Erik Walsh.

Catalytic development

Professional sports as an economic sector has been on a growth curve since the mid-20th century, dropping only during the COVID pandemic, Trubey said.

“A lot of cities, for really the last 25 years, have come to a greater and deeper understanding that having sports and entertainment venues can contribute to quality of life, so they are a public benefit in a lot of ways,” he said.

But land costs have gone up, making such projects more costly and challenging in today’s market. Rising interest rates have put a damper on sports and entertainment venue development the past two years but the industry is still robust — and urban-focused.

Dewey Newton, the Dallas-based senior vice president of sports and public assembly for Turner Construction, said the company has been busy responding to three requests for proposals and doing two interviews.

Newton attributes it to pent-up demand after the pandemic, but also to the number of aging facilities across the country. “Every time we build a new stadium, you think there’s not going to be any more to build, but there are still a lot of them that are 25, 30, some 40 years old,” he said.

Turner recently won the bid to build a new, 60,000-seat stadium for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans in Nashville. The $2.1 billion project will be located directly across the Cumberland River from downtown Nashville in a fast-developing area known as East Bank.

While land may be harder to acquire and more expensive in any city’s urban core versus outlying areas, public infrastructure like parking and transportation along with private development, like hotels, restaurants and bars, is already in place.

In suburbia, it might cost less to purchase the wide open spaces needed for a sports district with surface parking lots, but significantly more expensive to install the infrastructure needed to support it.

A sports venue can have a “multiplier effect” on previous investments in the urban core, Trubey said, activating an area and contributing to creating an authentic live, work, play environment.

Former County Judge Nelson Wolff has said he would like to see a new ballpark in the urban core, especially if it’s located near the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, in which the county has invested millions to develop on the northwest side of downtown.

“That is one of the things sports and entertainment venues can help accomplish more effectively than really any other use,” he said. “It also lifts the existing mixed-use infrastructure in the urban core.”

At Victory Park, located in Uptown Dallas, Trubey said, the developers understood that “if we do certain things with the arena in this case, we can make it catalytic and that it can transform a multi-block area into a vibrant destination environment.”

That’s been the goal of his sports venue projects for many years, he said. “Integrations are really the key to creating value in this particular building type and opportunity.”

Concern about returns

Between 1970 and 2020, state and local governments devoted $33 billion in public funds to construct major-league sports venues in the United States and Canada, according to a 2022 study by several university researchers on the impact of sports franchises and venues on municipalities.

The median public contribution covered 73 percent of construction costs, the researchers found, but sports teams and facilities resulted in “little to no tangible” economic impact on the local economy.

The Frost Bank Center, where the Spurs’ 2023-24 season opens this fall, was built in 2002 at a cost of $186 million and funded by tax-exempt municipal bonds, supported by a hotel occupancy and car rental tax. Almost $29 million came from the Spurs organization, which is said to have received $41 million in federal subsidies.

“The public is obviously very concerned about the returns” created by sports venues that their tax dollars helped to build, Trubey said.

Until a location is selected and a timeline created, it’s not possible to determine what the cost of a sports district could run, he said.

One sports venue consultant speaking on condition of anonymity said construction costs vary widely but arenas are generally just over $1 billion and baseball stadiums $1.5 billion.

Land size of about 8 to 10 acres is needed for an arena and for a Major League Baseball park, about 10 acres or more, he said, but the trend among most cities is to put them in a downtown location rather than the suburbs.

That’s especially true of venues built for basketball and baseball, which have more games in a season than football, making it more desirable to select a central and accessible location, the consultant added.

Building a sports venue takes about two to three years of actual construction and varies according to the facility’s complexity and scale, Trubey said.

“We’ve done things much more quickly and we’ve also had projects that took significantly longer because of approvals or financing or public support,” Trubey said. “It all has to do with how you are able to capitalize the project or get permission to build the project or both.”

Spread out

With the Spurs’ home court on the East Side and the Missions on the West Side, the Alamodome downtown and a soccer pitch, Toyota Field, on the Northeast Side, San Antonio’s major sports venues are spread across the city.

From 1973-93, the Spurs played at the former Hemisfair Arena downtown and, until 1994, the Missions played at V.J. Keefe Memorial Stadium on the St. Mary’s University campus on the West Side.

Hemisfair, with its parks, apartments and ongoing development, and the site of the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, have been floated as a potential site for a new sports venue likely given its proximity to the city-owned Henry B. González Convention Center and other downtown amenities.

The Institute of Texan Cultures is located at Hemisfair and was originally designed and built for the World's Fair in 1968.
The Institute of Texan Cultures and Hemisfair have been floated as a potential site for a new sports venue. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Trubey pointed to several cities that have managed to develop baseball stadiums in close proximity to football or basketball venues to create a sports district, including Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

“We just completed Globe Life Field for the Texas Rangers,” he said of the $1.1 billion ballpark for the Major League team. “It’s literally across the creek and a big greenbelt [from] AT&T Stadium that we did for … the [Dallas] Cowboys.”

Trubey declined to call out any part of San Antonio that he would consider a good place to build a new ballpark or arena, or whether his firm had been involved in the talks, saying that should come from the ownership of the teams.

But Newton, who has led Turner’s sports group for a decade, said he thinks San Antonio would benefit from a downtown sports district. It’s a city “where you can just go to a hotel, park and get your car three days later,” he said. “It’s a very easy city to have a district like that.”

‘Everything but the ball’

Both teams and various officials have said the city’s sports venues are no longer adequate, despite millions poured into renovations over the years. Can they be made better?

“A lot of that depends upon the age of the structural part of the venue,” Trubey said. The structural frame of venues built in the late ‘90s could last a century or two, but it also creates a “locked” geometry that doesn’t allow for adding seats or amenities, he added.

Many were not built to accommodate today’s fans, the teams and league requirements, and the business model of sports has changed over the years, he said.

“People want to buy, participate and sit in environments that didn’t exist in a lot of prior arenas and ballparks.”

About six years ago, Turner Construction completed improvements to the Atlanta Hawks’ stadium at a cost of $175 million, Newton said.

Today, “you could spend, all-in, $400 [million] or $500 million easily on an arena renovation,” mostly improving the fan experience, he said. But because the buildings are so large, “you have to touch all the spaces so, basically, it’s everything but the ball.”

Bill Mykins, vice president of the sports venue consultancy Brailsford & Dunlavey, said his firm has worked on renovating older stadiums, including the St. Louis Blues’ Enterprise Center and the Seattle Mariners’ T-Mobile Park.

In the case of Seattle, where the Mariners’ ballpark was built in 1999, the goal is to someday have a 100-year-old ballpark, like Fenway Park in Boston, Mykins said.

In the end, it comes down to, “What’s the owner’s vision?” he said.

Read the original article on the San Antonio Report.

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