New Hemisfair hotel officially underway after delays
Construction on a new hotel at Hemisfair began Tuesday, after years of delays and changes to the project that will anchor further development at the burgeoning downtown park district.
Why it matters: The long-awaited hotel from San Antonio-based Zachry Hospitality is the next step in revitalizing Hemisfair, the 1968 World's Fair site, as a public gathering space surrounded by private development.
Details: Called The Monarch, the 200-room, 17-story boutique hotel is now expected to open by early 2026. Located near South Alamo and West Market streets, it will be part of the Curio Collection by Hilton.
- It will include retail space, luxury guest rooms, a full-service spa, a terrace pool, a rooftop restaurant and bar, a basement speakeasy, a garden area, a fitness center and more.
- About 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space will be available.
- The curved hotel design is meant to offer panoramic views of Hemisfair and downtown.
What they're saying: "Today is a day to celebrate because time sometimes kills visions," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at a groundbreaking event. "But it has taken a whole host of people to make this day a reality. It's taken a huge amount of perseverance."
- "I honestly never thought this day would come," David Zachry, CEO of the Zachry Corp., said. "Few people have had any idea of how difficult this has really been to accomplish."
Context: Construction of the hotel was supposed to begin in 2018 and be finished by 2021, the Express-News has reported.
- Last year, the City Council approved a revised agreement with Zachry calling for construction to be completed in time for the NCAA Men's Final Four tournament, which is scheduled to take place April 5 and 7, 2025, at the Alamodome.
- A year later, it was again delayed.
State of play: Obtaining financing during the pandemic and subsequent changes to the hotel and hospitality industry has been a challenge, city and Zachry representatives have said.
- Prior to COVID-19, original plans for the hotel and broader development did not work for the site, Robert Thrailkill, vice president of operations for Zachry, told Axios.
- "Different parts of the project had different issues we had to deal with," Thrailkill said. "But really at this point, it doesn't matter. We're here. We're ready to build a hotel."
Zoom out: Zachry Corp. has ties to Hemisfair, and the site has played a significant role in his family, David Zachry said.
- H.B. "Pat" Zachry led the construction of the Hilton Palacio Del Rio hotel on the River Walk near Hemisfair.
- The hotel was finished in record time, 202 days, to open in time for the 1968 World's Fair.
- Zachry still owns and operates the Hilton Palacio.
The big picture: Hemisfair has undergone a multitude of changes since the City Council approved a master plan for the area in 2012. Before the World's Fair, the site was home to a neighborhood called Germantown, which was demolished to make way for Hemisfair.
- It's now home to Yanaguana Garden, multiple businesses, an apartment complex and more.
- The new Civic Park at Hemisfair opened this fall and has hosted multiple festivals already.
What's next: A second public development phase for Civic Park will follow The Monarch, as well as two private housing projects and more retail, assistant city manager Lori Houston told Axios.
The bottom line: "There is probably not a more important piece of real estate in San Antonio than this downtown area that encompasses Hemisfair all the way to the Alamo," Nirenberg said. "We have now fully gotten underway with the revitalization effort."
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