San Antonio/ Retail & Industry
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Published on April 24, 2024
San Antonio's La Villita to Get $250K Boost for Arts Market from Bexar County GrantSource: Google Street View

In a move to spice up San Antonio's La Villita Arts Market, local culinary maestro Chef Johnny Hernandez has bagged a $250,000 grant from Bexar County Commissioners. The funds, injected yesterday, are earmarked for a series of boosts to the area, including new awnings, fans, sound systems, plus tables and chairs, enhancing the experience for those attending arts fairs and culinary events. Justin Rodriguez, Commissioner for Pct. 2, referred to La Villita as "the heart of the city," as per San Antonio Report.

Previously, the city wrapped up a $5.6 million refurbishment of Maverick Plaza. Initiated in 2017 and spearheaded by Chef Hernandez in partnership with the City of San Antonio, this overhaul is part of a strategic bid to cement the city's reputation as a hub for culinary excellence—a fact recognized when San Antonio was named a Creative City of Gastronomy by the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Nevertheless, the pandemic and a subsequent road construction project near the plaza have to a degree, delayed the grand plans Hernandez had for the eateries intended to dazzle there.

Hernandez, of Grupo La Gloria renown, had previously expressed his reticence to forge ahead with the restaurants without a clear roadmap for the surrounding road construction timeline. Even as those plans simmered on the back burner, a city panel handed out conceptual nods in 2022 for designs of a Mexican restaurant within Maverick Plaza and a smaller eatery within the historic Faville House. "One restaurant is set to open in a year and a half," Hernandez said, with the promise of more details and a construction schedule to be revealed in the summer, according to a statement from city spokeswoman Kelly Saunders obtained by the San Antonio Report.

As La Villita's backdrop continues to evolve with street enhancements, including changes to South Alamo Street and East César E. Chávez Boulevard, Fiesta attendees are finding their way along paths lined with pylons to access the vibrant events of A Night In Old San Antonio. Hernandez aims to start reeling visitors into La Villita even before his restaurant's debut, stating, "I've stepped up and said I'm willing to start programming to help the village to begin to grow the tourism, to begin to bring people into the village, before the restaurant that will open," in a statement to the San Antonio Report.

The funds from the grant will be used to create the necessary infrastructure to effortlessly host an event in La Villita. Hernandez underscored the magnetic appeal of dining establishments in attracting tourism. "Any developer knows that, without a great restaurant, without a great coffee shop, without a great bake shop, people are not coming," he told the San Antonio Report. He also teased a "very generous contribution" of his own toward the cost of the improvements and programming, further showing his commitment to the project.

County Judge Peter Sakai viewed the grant as an investment in the cultural tapestry of La Villita and has called upon Hernandez to later account to the Commissioners Court about the expenditure of these funds, ensuring they serve their intended purpose. "I’ve stepped up and said I’m willing to start programming to help the village to begin to grow the tourism, to begin to bring people into the village, before the restaurant that will open," Hernandez assured, as reported by the San Antonio Report.