Amid opponents’ concerns about private development on city land and parity for low-wage workers, the City Council unanimously approved Thursday a deal that will continue to spur the redevelopment of Hemisfair, ushering in a planned hotel and residential development.
The deal with Zachry Hospitality approved Thursday also slightly expands the dedicated parkland at Hemisfair, despite accusations from detractors that the city is selling off taxpayers’ property. Before redevelopment of the urban park began several years ago, there were about 6.5 acres of publicly accessible, usable space.
Now, officials say there will be some 19 acres of parkland for the public. The larger space — confined by Market Street, South Alamo Street, Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Interstate 37 — includes parcels set aside for development. Plans call for apartments, a 200-room hotel and retail space, among other things.
Some 25 of the 35 people and groups who signed up to address the council spoke in favor of the project on 5 acres near the intersection of Market and South Alamo streets, where the hotel, apartments and mixed-use facilities will be constructed.
But opponents chastised the council for not looking out for San Antonians.
Carol Fisher, who has also been a loud, dissenting voice against ride-hailing here, berated the City Council for not representing San Antonians who couldn’t be in council chambers because they’re “working two jobs.”
She belittled the deal that will bring 800 new parking spaces to Hemisfair — 600 of which will be managed by the city. Fisher said Hemisfair would be a good place for “a poverty date where they can cruise a park that’s, frankly, not for them.”
Danna Schneider, an organizing director for the UNITE HERE union, implored the council to protect hotel workers and ensure they’re fairly compensated. She voiced concerns about banquet servers not receiving gratuity charged on customers’ bills.
But council members said they did due diligence and found no indication that Zachry’s hotel would act in bad faith. That includes Councilman Rey Saldaña, who was applauded for standing up for service-industry workers.
“Outside of the high priority that I have with the success of this park, what is not lost on me is that there is a local firm and a local operator that we interface with at Zachry. We’ve all asked tough questions of the Zachry folks, and some of us have gone beyond and spoken to some of their employees,” he said. “There is not much evidence, if any, that is mounting up that these folks are bad operators and that they’re mistreating their folks. In fact, there’s counter-evidence to that.”
Josh Baugh, San Antonio Express News