Hemisfair’s Historic Kusch House Receives HDRC Conceptual Approval

The City of San Antonio Historic and Design Review Commission (HDRC) has approved the conceptual design for the renovation of the historic Kusch House that will be home to a new concept brought to Hemisfair by the Chinese-American restauranteur behind the nationally acclaimed restaurants DASHI Sichuan Kitchen + Bar and Sichuan House, Kristina Zhao. The concept, called Kusch Faire, will feature Zhao’s popular mix of dishes from her existing restaurants, grab-and-go options for visitors to picnic in the park, as well as products from Zhao’s family Asian Market as an amenity to both park goers and residents in the neighborhood.? 

“The Hemisfair food scene is expanding rapidly, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome this wonderful concept and restauranteur to our district,” Andres Andujar, CEO of Hemisfair said. “As we are coming up on the 55th Anniversary of the World’s Fair this Thursday, and its theme of ‘Confluence of Civilizations’ it’s clear that we’re honoring that through the food offerings at Hemisfair.” 

John Kusch, a stonemason, and the home’s namesake, is believed to have constructed the 19th-century Gothic Revival house. City historical records indicate the house was always owned by a member of the Kusch family until HemisFair ‘68. The 1,100-square-foot structure includes an additional 385 sq. ft. of front and rear porch space and 550 sq. ft. of?area. The property also features an outdoor space suitable for additional seating with views of the Tower of the Americas. To honor and compliment the home’s original features, the design for the kitchen exterior is sleek and minimalistic and will incorporate “yunwen” and “leiwen” decorative panels used in the Taiwanese Pavilion from HemisFair ‘68. The courtyard design seeks to be a portal welcoming guests into Kusch Faire with iconic arches. 

Kristina Zhao is the Chinese-American restaurateur behind nationally acclaimed restaurants DASHI Sichuan Kitchen + Bar and Sichuan House. She cooks to bridge cultural differences and reimagines the American dining experience by bringing real tastes of Sichuanese cuisine to the limelight, expanding the boundaries of Sichuanese cuisine in San Antonio – one of only two UNESCO Creative Cities of Gastronomy in the United States. 

“The Hemisfair family has been very kind and supportive, and we have been in alignment with the organization’s vision to create one of the world’s great public spaces with principles of leadership, preservation, connectivity, balance and sustainability,” Zhao said. “My team and I are beyond honored and excited to bring a Sichuanese-Chinese concept for operation at the Kusch House and for the partnership opportunity to create, cultivate knowledge and inspire curiosity in our increasingly diverse community together.” 

Construction is slated to begin fall 2023 and the restaurant is slated to open summer 2024. 

The Hemisfair district exercises a flexible lease structure with its tenants, who rent the historic homes they occupy based on a percentage of sales. Hemisfair typically enjoys more than 600,000 visitors annually, though the lease structure is particularly forgiving in times of low attendance or economic uncertainty such as a pandemic. Revenue generated by leasing the house contributes to Hemisfair’s financial sustainability and helps it become an active, urban park district for residents and visitors to enjoy. 

Thanks to a $750,000 grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Kusch House was rehabilitated to allow for a tenant to move in and call the house, home. The Kusch House is one of the many historic structures within the Hemisfair district that has been successfully rehabilitated but is the first within Tower Park, the third park in the Hemisfair park series.