Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC), a nonprofit organization established by the city of San Antonio in 2009, is creating Hemisfair, a 19-acre park on the site of the 1968 World's Fair in San Antonio.
The 1968 World's Fair changed San Antonio for the better, providing a boost to the city's convention and hospitality business. Yet 40-plus years later, very little had happened at the fair site. Investments had been made in the city center benefitting the hospitality industry, but less had been done for the benefit of San Antonians. That is changing with the 2015 opening of Yanaguana Garden, phase one of Hemisfair's master plan. "Hemisfair is catalyzing the changes we're seeing in San Antonio. A downtown that incorporates residences, commerce, public parks, and hospitality will sustain our city," says HPARC CEO Andres Andujar. Hemisfair, which includes the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and Tower of the Americas, will eventually be home to three distinct parks, pedestrian and vehicle streets, and multi-story, mixed-use development.
The vision for Hemisfair is to create an urban parks district, something greater than developing only a public park. HPARC Communications Director Drew Hicks explains: "An urban parks district reflects a sense of neighborhoods connecting. It is safe, walkable, active, and includes places where friends meet, where people shop - things people do in the neighborhoods in which they live. Every design decision we make puts the local people first. We want our guests, whether they are locals or tourists, to have an authentic San Antonio experience at Hemisfair.
With 14,000 hotel rooms in downtown San Antonio, HPARC staff was surprised to learn that 84 percent of Hemisfair's visitors are local. Hemisfair is already living up to its tagline: Where San Antonio Meets.
"Every square inch matters when designing a public park," states Andujar. "As we make decisions about Hemisfair's design, materials, and products, we do a complete vetting and bring the best people to the table."
"The watchword for Hemisfair is quality," continues Hicks. "There is not a single detail in the park that we haven't obsessed over. This is true of the lighting and site furnishing selections as well." HPARC was impressed by Landscape Forms' reputation as a design leader in the outdoor LED lighting and site furnishings market. Important also was knowing that products selected were durable and maintainable - essential qualities for a highly used public space. HPARC selected Alcott area lights, Hawthorne path lights, Parc Centre chairs, ottomans, and tables, and TUUCI umbrellas. Andujar and team appreciated the beauty of the products and the way they work together to express a common design language throughout the park. The form of Alcott and Hawthorne lights also echoes the architecture of the Tower of the Americas.
Before revitalization began, Hemisfair was an unimproved park, and the developers were concerned people would not come to the park because of its condition. Because community involvement has been HPARC's modus operandi since its inception, Andujar engaged a group of young mothers to help HPARC understand what would attract them to the park. Feeling safe was at the top of their list.
"'Good lighting that allows me to see a person's face at a distance as they approach at night' was how one woman defined safety," says Andujar. That level of safety is what HPARC and its design partners set out to accomplish. The team wanted warm lighting below the 3000k range that provided clear visibility and object detection. 'A person's eyes can't adjust well to harsh lighting," says Andujar, "and dark spots create a sense of insecurity, which is what we were working hard to avoid." The park's lighting scheme includes light coming from above, along pathways, and on the ground, all contributing to a lighting design that allows a person to see someone's face from a distance.
The design of the lights as well as the lighting scheme offer an aesthetic that enhances a visitor's experience. "Warm light creates a sense of comfort that is inviting to our visitors," continues Andujar. "It adds a sense of romance, whether guests are on a date or there to look at a beautiful setting, we want to engage their senses. The park's lighting engages the senses through the effect it has on the space."
The park is open from 5 am until midnight, and HPARC staff regularly see it filled with people of all ages at 10 pm, including families with young children. "There is a great interaction going on between our guests and the park during the nighttime hours," says Andujar. "That tells us people feel safe here."
Hemisfair is becoming the place where San Antonio meets. It is one of the most used parks per acre in the state. From the first conversations about Hemisfair in the early 2000s to its becoming a "crown jewel of urban revitalization" in 2017, "Hemisfair is a central, civic gathering place for all the things that are San Antonio. Its energy and momentum are absolutely catalytic, and it is giving optimism to the city", says Hicks.