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Villarreal & Van De Putte File Bills To Protect Hemisfair Redevelopment

Eileen Pace

Two San Antonio  lawmakers have introduced companion bills at the State Capitol to facilitate the redevelopment of Hemisfair.

State law requires a public vote anytime park land is leased or sold to protect the park acreage from being reduced in size, but the Hemisfair master plan calls for establishing more park space than exists under its current configuration.

State Representative Mike Villarreal said House Bill 2018 and Sen. Leticia Van dePutte's Senate Bill 930 accomplish two protections for the park space at Hemisfair:

"Number one, expanding the amount of park space from an effective six acres to 20 acres; and number two, bringing in residential development and mixed-use development, but not hotel development," Villarreal said.

Hemifair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation CEO, Andres Andujar, said the public already has approved using the additional acreage as parkland, but without the legislation a vote would have to take place every time HPARC reconfigured spaces throughout the process; and that would slow the progress.

Villarreal said such votes typically occur only when parkland is being reduced, but in Hemisfair’s case they’re looking at uncovering additional acres of park space that right now supports structures.

"They're primarily underneath the original part of the Convention Center. And so that part is going to be coming down at the corner of Alamo and Commerce. And that will be an entryway into an enlarged park," Villarreal said.

Villarreal says the legislation protects the master plan from hotel construction, so that its primary purpose to serve residents is protected.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.