Creating a world-class park in San Antonio

One of the best parts of Shannon Perry’s job is when she sees children leaving a show at the Magik Theater. As soon as they turn to see Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair, their eyes get bigger, their jaws drop and they start running with joy toward the colorful, vibrant playground next door.  

“That never gets old,” she said. “I love seeing the faces of those kids.”                  

Perry is the development and communications manager of the Hemisfair Conservancy, the nonprofit dedicated to raising funds for Hemisfair Park, an urban parks district in downtown San Antonio. The conservancy works in tandem with another nonprofit, the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC), to create a series of three parks at the site.

Together, the two nonprofits aim to create one of the world’s great public spaces.

“One phrase that we’ve been saying a lot is we’re creating San Antonio’s very own version of Central Park,” Perry said.

The Hemisfair district is a series of three interconnected parks in downtown San Antonio.

The first, Yanaguana Garden, opened in 2015, bringing a unique playground, splash pad, gardens, games and more to the space. Opening next is Phase 1 of Civic Park, which debuts Sept. 29 and includes an urban greenspace with a great lawn, gardens, water features and more, next door to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Phase 2 of Civic Park will open in 2025.

Later this year, work will begin on the third and final phase of the Hemisfair urban park series, Tower Park, located on the eastern side of Hemisfair near the Tower of the Americas.

In addition to recreational spaces, the parks district also includes restaurants, retail and living spaces.

The conservancy raises money for capital construction operations, historic preservation, environmental initiatives, community programming and an endowment to fund park improvements in the future. Perry manages the organization’s donor database and helps with marketing and grant writing, among other duties.

“I have my hand in everything, which has really been fun,” she said.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Perry and her husband settled in San Antonio after he left the Air Force. She worked in development for a local private high school for more than three years before joining the Hemisfair Conservancy in 2014. With experience working for Habitat for Humanity, she knew the transformative power of thoughtful construction on a community.

“I saw what re-doing homes on a street can do for the whole neighborhood, and I thought Hemisfair is very similar,” she said. “It’s going to make our city so beautiful and attractive to a lot of people.”

Perry recently completed SVP San Antonio’s Fellowship Program. She applied for the fellowship to broaden her network and learn ways to do her job more effectively.

“I want to make sure I’m learning as much as I can and as many best practices as possible to maximize the work I’m doing so it has a greater impact with my team and everything we’re doing here,” she said.

She also appreciated the opportunity to share experiences with other fellows. She offered her expertise in fundraising and marketing to nonprofit leaders in the program and learned from their experiences as well.

One highlight for Perry was the technology and security session. Initially she didn’t think she would learn much, being fairly tech savvy, but she walked away with ideas and action steps she’s already implemented in her job. For example, she’s transferred the organization’s files to a cloud-based sharing system that securely backs up documents and provides access to all team members.

“We’re on the right path and I’m just thankful that we had that session to get my mind thinking about those things,” she said.