Journal of Housing & Community Development
Featured Story

Wheatley Courts Brings New Park to San Antonio

October 22, 2021
by Libby Miller

The San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) won a 2020 Award of Excellence for Project Design for the revitalization of the Wheatley Courts, including the construction of a new public park. Nominated from among the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in November. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development. 

With a Choice Neighborhood Revitalization grant, SAHA saw an opportunity to construct a family-friendly park in a low-income community to enhance the neighborhood and create a safe, decent recreational area for nearby residents. SAHA oversaw the entirety of the park’s concept design, community outreach, design development, construction oversight and grand opening. During the early stages of the process, SAHA held public community meetings to get input from area children, adults and seniors about the park’s design and construction. The partnerships and collaboration included residents of the neighborhood, the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation, HUD, DHR Architects, Bender Wells Clark Design and the San Antonio Housing Authority. Together the team created a new neighborhood park to be enjoyed and used as a new gathering place for all. 

Phyllis Wheatley Park is located near a 215-unit multi-family development and an 80-unit senior living residence. It features a commemorative art sculpture garden developed through a neighborhood resident collaboration, a large structure providing shade for visitors, and an interactive playground area for children. Once the park’s construction was completed, SAHA turned ownership of the park to the City of San Antonio, tasking them with long-term maintenance and upkeep of the space.   

 The park honors and pays tribute to Phillis Wheatley, the first published African American female poet and Ira Aldridge, recognized as the first African American theater stage star. Large art walls memorializing each of them anchor the east end of the park and welcome all into a space made by the community. The art walls are created by Houston artist Reginald Adams who incorporated mosaic tile finishes with colorful designs which document honorees history. In addition, the artist collaborated with the community residents, students and seniors to develop an integrated set of mosaic lions and benches within the park landscape. There is also a wide walking trail that runs the length of the park. The park features three spaces: an open grassy area, a play area for kids that includes fitness equipment for adults, and a senior gathering space with game tables and shaded seating. 

The park interior and perimeter spaces are very well lit, allowing it to be used even after it gets dark out. Since the park’s opening, the city has added to their wellness program and used the park for gathering to conduct low impact exercises. These activities are available for residents of the surrounding area and many that follow the city’s wellness programming.   

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