San Antonio City Council on Dec. 16 unanimously approved a $27.9 million construction contract to Skanska USA Building Inc. for Phase 1 of development at Civic Park at Hemisfair.

According to city officials, ground will be broken in late January on a project that is designed to be the next phase of redevelopment of the downtown park, a public space that had laid mostly vacant for years following the 1968 World’s Fair.

“Residents from every corner of San Antonio come to Hemisfair to find connection and respite, and Civic Park’s completion will ensure our [city center] becomes a world-class gathering place for neighbors of all backgrounds for generations to come,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a statement.

A release said Civic Park is the second of three urban parks planned for Hemisfair. Years of redevelopment have so far resulted in construction of The ’68 Apartments complex, Yanaguana Garden, and restaurants and bars.

Phase 1 of Civic Park will cover 5 acres of public parkland, including a shaded promenade, a water feature and a so-called “Great Lawn” for large events up to 15,000 people, city officials said. The contract approval with Skanska also includes free Wi-Fi at Civic Park to increase public broadband access and an expanded public restroom with a universal changing station.

“After years of planning and testing new ideas at the community-beloved Yanaguana Garden, we’re excited to execute this contract,” said Assistant City Manager Lori Houston, who sits on the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corp. board.

“The plans for Civic Park carry on the tenets of Hemisfair’s environmental, cultural and financial sustainability that were developed by residents during the master-planning process.”

Local voters passing the city’s $850 million bond in 2017 directed $21.4 million toward the Civic Park project. During the pandemic, the city’s public works department, Hemisfair and park designer GGN crafted a construction phasing plan to spend funding allocated from the 2017 bond, private donors and other sources.

“We thank our partners at the city of San Antonio and GGN for working with us to reimagine the delivery of Civic Park,” Hemisfair CEO Andres Andujar said. “With Skanska on board to develop Civic Park’s first phase, we are one step closer to delivering one of the world’s great public places.”