By Ben Olivo | @rbolivo | Heron editor
This profile has been updated.
The design for Hemisfair’s boutique hotel, an at-times controversial project that has gestated over several years, was given conceptual approval by the city’s Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) without discussion on Wednesday.
The plans show a curved 17-story hotel made of glass and concrete with retail on the ground level at 222 S. Alamo St., next to Hemisfair’s future main entrance, known as the Source Plaza, on the southeast corner of East Market and South Alamo streets.
The 200-room hotel, designed by Overland Partners, is one component of the redevelopment of this section of Hemisfair, which is being led by Zachry Hospitality.
Immediately after the vote, Hemisfair announced the hotel would be a Curio Collection by Hilton, owned and operated by Zachry Hospitality. The company is leasing the land from Hemisfair and the city, and is not receiving a tax abatement for the project, Hemisfair CEO Andres Andujar said in an email.
“I appreciate our partners for their unwavering perseverance and collaboration,” Zachry Corporation President and CEO David Zachry said in a statement. “Together with our community, we will create one of the premier resident and visitor destinations in the country.”
The hotel’s design, while given an initial nod by the HDRC, was met with mostly criticism from followers of the @DowntownSanAntonio Instagram page on Tuesday.
“Looks like an oversized drive-in movie screen,” wrote @nontcoolsanantonio. “Actually a drive-in is a better idea.”
“Nice to see more upscale architecture being built in the city ??,” wrote @kevihendrix.
The post also received more than 2,000 likes by Wednesday evening.
In a statement, Bob Shemwell, Overland Partners’ senior principal, said the firm and Zachry Hospitality “relish the opportunity to construct what will become a signature piece of architecture along San Antonio’s skyline, while embracing and celebrating the cultural history and verdant attributes of the park.”
Responding to criticism on social media that the 17-story hotel will block views of the Tower of the Americas, Hemisfair said in a statement that the tower will still be visible when standing in the Source Plaza on the corner of Market and Alamo, as well as the future Civic Park lawn area.
“Thanks to the thoughtful master planning developed in conjunction with the community, the Tower of Americas will be clearly visible due to a self-imposed view corridor from the Civic Park Source Plaza to the tower,” Hemisfair’s statement reads.
The hotel will feature multiple restaurants on the ground floor, a rooftop bar and a garden with public art, according to the release.
Other components of the Hemisfair redevelopment include 525 residential units (with 32 units priced for people making up to 80 percent of the area median income [AMI], and 55 for people making up to 60 percent AMI) and more retail space totaling 65,000 square feet and 1,100 parking garage spaces that will blend seamlessly with future park segments of Hemisfair—a “source plaza” that greets pedestrians at Market and Alamo as they approach from Alamo Plaza and the Torch of Friendship, water features, a promenade connecting this section with other parts of the park, and a large lawn known as the Civic Park.
In late January, local dignitaries officially broke ground on the Civic Park with the capacity to host 10,000 people for events. It’s expected to open sometime in 2023.
All of it—the Civic Park, the hotel, the residential buildings, etc.—must be completed in time for the NCAA Final Four in April 2025, Hemisfair and city officials said recently.
[ Heron: San Antonio City Council approves new agreement with Zachry for long-delayed Hemisfair project | April 7, 2022 ]
The boutique hotel timeline submitted to the HDRC shows construction beginning in December, and a grand opening on Feb. 27, 2025, about a month before the first games of the Final Four take place at the Alamodome on April 5.
It’s the latest phase of the redevelopment of Hemisfair, which began with the opening of the 4.1-acre play area Yanaguana Garden in 2015, and continued with the mixed-income apartment building The ’68 in 2019.
The HDRC applicant, Chris Jaworski, director of development services for Zachry, did not respond to an interview request on Tuesday.
Zachry is leasing the land from Hemisfair and the city. In April, the City Council approved an agreement with Zachry Hospitality to develop the northwest corner of Hemisfair, after the company failed to meet the obligations of a similar agreement signed five years earlier.
[ Heron: Zachry’s failure to make Hemisfair rent payments prompts new lease agreement | March 14, 2022 ]
All phases of the development—the hotel, the two residential buildings; all with retail—total an estimated $340 million, according to city officials.
In the 2017 deal between Zachry Hospitality and Hemisfair, Zachry was supposed to begin construction of the new buildings by July 2018, and begin making a lease payment of $1.925 million by Aug. 1, 2021.
Zachry reneged on both obligations of the 2017 contract.
During the council meeting in April, Zachry officials, in particular CEO David Zachry, never explained to the City Council why the company reneged on its 2017 agreement with the city.
In Zachry’s defense, none of the City Council members, including Mayor Ron Nirenberg, asked for an explanation.
[ Express-News: Iszler: After 4 years of inaction, why is San Antonio accommodating Hemisfair project developer Zachry? | March 22, 2022 ]
At Wednesday’s HDRC meeting, Zachry was given conceptual approval for the design. It will be required to return to the commission at a later date for final approval.
Zachry, on several occasions, when asked by the Heron, has declined to comment on the need for a new Hemisfair contract.
Zachry’s new hotel will stand across South Alamo from the Hilton Palacio del Rio, which David Zachry’s grandfather, H.B. “Pat” Zachry, built for the HemisFair ’68 World’s Fair. In 2016, Hemisfair selected Zachry Hospitality to develop this portion of Hemisfair from among 11 other companies because Zachry promised higher lease payments, Hemisfair officials have told the council in the past.
The creation of a hotel at Hemisfair was made possible after David Zachry and others in the hotel industry lobbied the Texas Legislature in 2013 to include language that would make possible hotel development back when local lawmakers were reconfiguring Hemisfair land. (The Hemisfair land at Market and Alamo currently being redeveloped was once occupied by the original Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, which was demolished and expanded at an estimated cost of $325 million east toward Interstate 37 to make room for Hemisfair redevelopment.)
Eventually, then-State Rep. Mike Villarreal reached a compromise with Zachry, in which 20 percent of developable land could be reserved for a hotel. In the same bill, the amount of parkland at Hemisfair was nearly doubled.
[ Express-News archive: Zachry boss is targeting HemisFair hotel rules | May 10, 2013 ]
Later, the City Council restricted the number of hotel rooms to 200.
[ Express-News archive: Chasnoff: Hotels now have HemisFair reservations | Oct. 16, 2013 ]
In an Express-News op-ed in 2013, Zachry defended his lobbying for a hotel at Hemisfair, for which he served on the board from late 2009 to early 2011. He said then that the park needed the flexibility to create different revenue streams in order to make it self-sustainable someday.
“Zachry did not get involved in this legislation so that we might compete for a hotel at HemisFair,” David Zachry wrote of his company. “Of course, we might like to own a hotel there, just like every other hotel owner in the world. However, we have never advocated for ourselves or anything but open and transparent processes for HemisFair redevelopment, during my time on the HPARC board or since. Any suggestion otherwise is completely untrue.”
[ Express-News archive: Zachry: Flexibility was goal of HemisFair proposal | May 22, 2013 ]
Hemisfair boutique hotel
» Address: 305 Soledad St.
» Developer: Zachry Hospitality (San Antonio)
» Property owner: HemisFair Park Public Facilities Corp. (City of San Antonio)
» Status: Planning stage
» Height: 17 stories
» Land size: 3 acres
» Total rooms: 200
» Retail: Unknown
» Residential: N/A
» Office: N/A
» Parking: N/A
» Construction start date: December 2022
» End date: January 2025
» Architect: Overland Partners (San Antonio)
» Cost: Unknown
» Investors: Unknown
» Financing: Unknown
» San Antonio Incentives: N/A
» Bexar County incentives: N/A
» Texas incentives: N/A
» Federal incentives: N/A
» Total public subsidy: N/A
» Cashflow: Unknown