Civic Park at Hemisfair: A project win rooted in knowledge sharing

A regional first. A masterclass in collaboration. This is the story of Civic Park at Hemisfair (Civic Park)—a prime example of Be Better–Together.

1 / 4 Skanska team members gather for the groundbreaking of Civic Park at Hemisfair on Wednesday, January 26, 2022.
2 / 4 A rendering of the completed $27 million park highlights the greenery to come to the city center.
3 / 4 Skanska team members are excited about the dynamic gathering place being constructed in the heart of San Antonio.
4 / 4 Civic Park at Hemisfair will be a world-class outdoor space situated on the former grounds of the 1968 “HemisFair” International Exposition.

Civic Park will be a world-class outdoor space and public gathering place located within the grounds of the 1968 “HemisFair” International Exposition.

This project will include the construction of various water features, the Great Lawn, a restroom building, and sprawling natural stone blocks and pavers.

Over one hundred and thirty mature trees and a recycled system for irrigation will also be installed on the site.

As our San Antonio team’s first downtown park project, Civic Park will neighbor the beloved San Antonio River Walk and live around the corner from The Alamo.

On the heels of the project’s groundbreaking, project leads are already envisioning what this park will mean to their city and their families.

“It’s not often I get to build a project that I can bring family to—most cases involve pointing from afar and saying ‘That’s the building I built,’” shares Tom Hull, senior project manager.

Steve Lyons, vice president, business development, realizes the project’s unique nature.

“We are fortunate to have built a lot of important projects in San Antonio, from schools to labs to offices, but this one is extra special because it’s something that residents and visitors can enjoy,” he shares.

An opportunity to glean others’ expertise

The $27 million park project will sit in a busy city center that frequently hosts outdoor festivals, marathons and fairs.

Acknowledging they weren’t yet experts in park planning, our San Antonio team looked to others for guidance from the start.

“While our team in San Antonio has great experience with a variety of clients and project types, parks are not one of them,” says Matt McCaffrey, vice president and project executive.

Enter: our Nashville team.

In 2014, our Music City-based team led the redevelopment of West Riverfront Park, an outdoor space blocks from the busy Broadway thoroughfare.

With insights from West Riverfront Park in mind, our Nashville team helped our San Antonio team anticipate and plan for the work ahead.

“I explained how systems play a role in making a venue of this type work. Projects like this require a large amount of coordination and planning with design, owners, end users and related contractors,” recalls John Yunker, senior superintendent.

Discussions focused on logistics in a complicated downtown environment.

“Talking with our Nashville team was important to understand the flexibility our project needs as events continue to be hosted,” Tom shares. “Key takeaways from our conversation included an emphasis on constant and open communication with surrounding stakeholders and being good neighbors.”

Our San Antonio team also reached out to our Tampa team for advice on how to build a park and received an enthusiastic response.

“I recognized the chance for collaboration and invited our San Antonio team to visit Tampa to witness the building of several downtown city parks in our region,” shares Chuck Jablon, senior vice president of construction.

Over multiple days, our Tampa team pulled back the curtain on their experiences building local landmarks.

They hosted tours of both current and complete park projects for our San Antonio team, candidly sharing challenges and opportunities encountered along the way.

Award-winning venues like the City of St. Petersburg Pier Gateway, City of Tampa Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, and Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park grounded the itinerary.

One of our active projects, Imagine Clearwater Park, was also a part of the learning tour.

“They not only provided us access to their project teams, but designers, owners and operators of these park projects. Meeting with these stakeholders prompted us to think beyond constructability issues,” says Tom.

“We learned how the parks have impacted these stakeholders. This shifted our approach to the Civic Park project, response to the request for proposal (RFP) and our strategy in the interview,” Tom continues.

To further refine the park’s design, a connection to selected landscape architect, GGN, came through a Seattle-based colleague.

Alan Dunbar, senior vice president, regional director preconstruction, had previously consulted for the firm while working on Lurie Garden at Millenium Park, Chicago, and happily connected the Civic Park team to Founding Partner Jennifer Guthrie.

Subsequent conversations were instrumental in identifying and addressing key design risks before client interviews.

Prioritizing collaboration on the road to completion

From the outset, our San Antonio was committed understanding the job better than anyone else. Conversations with our Tampa, Nashville and Seattle teams, and others made this possible.

During the Civic Park interviews, our San Antonio team’s unmistakable commitment to the work shone through and led to a win.

Looking ahead, the team’s collaborative spirit shows no signs of slowing.

Upon returning from Tampa, our team immediately applied lessons learned to the way they approached engagement with subcontractors and suppliers.

They proactively set up a relationship with the specified Stone Quarry and the City’s contracted tree farm and are looking to continue thoughtfully engaging third-party vendors.

The team plans to continue leaning on others’ expertise while sharing their own lessons learned along the way.

Going forward, Steve is focused on helping others the way his colleagues pitched in to help his team.

“Never be afraid to reach out for help and leverage the thousands of great people we have at Skanska. I am personally convicted to pay it forward and help other offices the same way we received help on this project. If I can help my colleagues in any way, I’m just a phone call away,” says Steve.

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