Anne Krause, Executive Director, Hemisfair Conservancy recognizes Overland with tree dedication and tribute. Image Copyright Overland Partners
“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” — Nelson Henderson
This majestic elm tree is dedicated to Overland Partners Architects who saw promise in this park. Just like this elm, Overland’s vision began as a seed of an idea planted in the heart of the San Antonio community – Hemisfair. Watered with creativity and resolve, cared for by Overland, civic leaders and a band of passionate citizens with a shared vision of urban revitalization, new life continues to spring from their efforts.
Our elm recognizes Overland’s leadership, dedication, and countless hours of volunteer service to re-envision the San Antonio community and unlock its enormous embedded potential.
In 2005 when the Overland team, led by Madison Smith and Rick Archer, began reimagining the area, the first step was to address the challenges Hemisfair had suffered over the years from the lack of an effective master plan. They created a concept in the hope of prompting community conversations about what Hemisfair should become. As word of the concept spread, a stream of business and community leaders visited Overland’s offices to see the concept, and the conversation gained interest and momentum. Among them was then-Mayor Phil Hardberger, who set up a taskforce to explore Hemisfair’s redevelopment.
Hemisfair was included in a 2007 bond package that earmarked $3.2 million for general upkeep, part of which was used for the restoration of two historic homes and the surrounding grounds: Eager House and Carriage House, serving as the cornerstone in Hemisfair’s redevelopment. Carriage House was completed in 2012, the same year the long-awaited master plan was approved.
In August 2009, newly elected Mayor Julián Castro and the San Antonio City Council established the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corp., aka HPARC, a 501(c)3 nonprofit local government corporation governed by an 11-member board comprised of local leaders and two city executive staff members. The working board of highly skilled volunteers brought a diversity of talent from architecture and design, fine art, history, finance, marketing, and development. Overland’s Madison Smith chaired the initial board (2009 – 2013) and recalls the passionate energy and significant contributions each board member made. “We had no staff for two years,” said Smith, “so we were the staff. Everyone chipped in and we got things moving forward and done.” “Our conversations were lively, deep and meaningful. We engaged our neighbors city-wide and built real alignment while forging a strong partnership with the city,” Smith recalls.
The board built upon the fond memories and experiences of HemisFair ’68 and recast it in a contemporary light, connecting the past and future. They created a robust community engagement plan that showcased a vibrant, active urban park district that reintroduced people to downtown. The resulting vision was and still is to develop one of the world’s great public spaces. Private development stimulated by public investment is the economic driver.
The board’s first hire in 2011 was Andres Andujar, who was an active board member through the end of 2010, with a strong background in design and urban development. His vast experience in large civic projects included the Denver airport expansion, and the creation of the River North District and the redevelopment of Houston Street in San Antonio. “Overland’s critical role was creating a vision to kindle a conversation as to how to reimagine Hemisfair,” said Andujar, CEO of Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation. “I see my role as carrying that vision forward.”
With Andujar at the helm, Hemisfair’s Master Plan of an urban district is centered around two parks – Yanaguana Garden and Civic Park – and weaves in residences, businesses and dining spots. Yanaguana Garden opened in 2015 with 4.1 acres of lush landscaping, towering arbors, plentiful shaded seating, adaptive play equipment, a sand play area and a splash pad. To call it a success is an understatement: The garden has hosted more than 3.5 million visitors – and 84 percent of them are local residents.
Civic Park at Hemisfair, a nine-acre signature green space, is currently under construction and phase 1 is expected to open in 2023. It will feature a large public plaza and courtyards, an event lawn and stage, and a connecting promenade that links to areas beyond the park. Water flowing through fountains, channels and pools, will tell the story of San Antonio’s deep historical connection to the river. The park will offer enriching and captivating experiences, drawing people together and strengthening our community.
The total economic impact of constructing Hemisfair is estimated at $880 million in new economic activity, and more than 4,000 jobs over a 10-year construction phase. When completed, Hemisfair will have an annual impact of $400 million for the San Antonio economy. The park’s impact extends well beyond parks and greenspaces to mixed use development, public/private partnerships and historic preservation.
“Every great city has a great downtown, and every great downtown has a great civic place. For San Antonio, that’s Hemisfair.” – Madison Smith