San Antonio: Westside’s Rinconcito de Esperanza Seeks Funding for Phase 2 Redevelopment
Feature Photo (above): A bird’s-eye view of The Rinconcito de Esperanza on the Westside of downtown. Image: Google Earth/VBX graphic.
San Antonio (Bexar County) — The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center is awaiting a decision from the Westside Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone directors on whether they will agree to a request for a much needed cash infusion for the next phase of development at Rinconcito de Esperanza.
The Rinconcito is a cluster of 11 small structures on three lots in the 800 block of South Colorado Street. Esperanza Peace and Justice Center has been acquiring land here over the past two decades in hopes of establishing the Westside’s first designated historic district.
Most of the structures were built between 1906 and the 1940s and are representative of residential and commercial structures of working class Mexican-American families of that era. In June, the Historic and Design Review Commission agreed to the nonprofit organization’s request for a historic designation for 812 and 816 S. Colorado and for 1024 El Paso Street.
Esperanza is now in the process of securing local and state historic building tax credits to assist in the financing of Phase 2 of its redevelopment plans. The organization’s mission is to preserve San Antonio’s Mexican-American culture through promotion of the fine and performance arts, and through advocacy of issues dedicated to the preservation of culturally significant landmarks and buildings.
Their efforts in Phase 1 of the Rinconcito project entailed stabilization of the existing structures as well as their repurposing as museum venues and art studios. The newest structure, MujerArtes Adobe Studio, was constructed of compressed earth block in 2017 and was a component of Phase 1, a $1.9 million project.
Graciela Sanchez, Esperanza’s director, is proposing a $3.1 million Phase 2 development that will involve an extensive rehabilitation of Ruben’s Ice House, a circa 1930s building that is to become the new home of the Museo del Westside, a community participatory museum focusing on the district’s history and culture. Other improvements include:
New adobe construction of a gallery addition to the Museo
Creation of an outdoor multi-purpose performance, film-screening, and event space
Restoration of the seven houses at 812 South Colorado
During a Tuesday, Oct. 27 morning session of the Westside TIRZ Board of Directors, Sanchez requested a reimbursement grant of $1.5 million that could be parceled out over two or three years. Staff recommended the grant be limited to $775,000 because the standard funding formula for projects recommends assistance be capped at 25% of a project cost.
The board members appeared to be receptive to providing the full amount requested, however, the project was presented for discussion only and will not return for a vote until December.
Esperanza Peace and Justice has been working with an architects Dwayne Bohuslav and Ronn Basquette for several years and Sanchez came prepared with detailed renderings of what is envisioned for the museum and other structures. This includes new iconic north and south entrances to the complex and landscaping with courtyards and gardens.
It is the ambition of the organization that Rinconcito will become a major attraction for Westside residents, a place where they can learn the various art forms, participate in live events, and gain access to traditional nutritional and healing practices, and gain marketable skills.
Sanchez said that during the construction phase, the project would create from 75 to 80 jobs. After completion, Rinconcito would project 35 full-time and part-time jobs at a living wage, with benefits.
If the funding is in place by December, Sanchez said the museum project will be bid out to contractors and construction could begin early 2021. Depending on the availability of funds, the rehabilitation and repurposing of the other buildings will occur at approximately the same time, or after the museum is completed. The landscaping and entrances will come last.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.