The city’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 includes an additional $650,000 for the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation.
This year, HPARC received $500,000 in funding for planning and design of a master plan.
The extra money comes from revenue generated through Hemisfair Park leases.
“The additional $650,000 is really to take them from the planning stages to the execution stages,” said Center City Development Director Lori Houston. “They’re ready to rock-and-roll and hopefully in the next couple years, you'll be seeing projects on the ground.”
The lease revenue goes into the city’s general fund, and some city council members believe it should be given to other departments.
“We're in a $50 million-budget shortfall year. We're looking at cutting back a full day week of libraries. We're cutting parks, road construction; we're making deep cuts in basic services so the question is not whether we want to invest in HPARC, the question is whether or not it's our first priority,” said District 10 Councilman Carlton Soules. “In this environment, I don’t think it is.”
HPARC was established to become self-sustainable through public private partnerships, but thus far private investment is lacking.
Hemisfair CEO Andres Andujar said that is no reason to slow the group’s progress, and believes the extra funding will be crucial in making the park’s master plan a reality.
“It's an investment that is leveraged from the standpoint that the things that we are doing to transform Hemisfair, to expand the park and to improve its quality, are designed specifically to serve as a community front porch,” Andujar said. “The investment of the dollars that are produced in the park will help us not only create the transformation, but also to bring private investment at Hemisfair."
Texas Sen. Leticia van de Putte, who spearheaded legislation putting the park's redevelopment in the hands of city leaders, agrees with Andujar.
“Until that new plan is fully implemented and new leases are signed, which gives us better resources, we need to really make sure we don't short change ourselves," she said.