SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio City Council members generally showed support for the broad strokes of a revamped Alamo Plan on Wednesday.
The plan’s future was uncertain following a September vote by the Texas Historical Commission that blocked a controversial, but central component to the plan - moving the Cenotaph. The new version presented to council members on Wednesday afternoon, however, would not move the monument to the fallen Alamo defenders.
Additionally, the plan would not lower the ground level to mark the original footprint or use railings around the site, which were also controversial elements of the previous plan. Instead, the site would be marked off by the use of distinct pavers or stones.
The plan still calls for shutting down area streets to most vehicular traffic, However, parades like the Battle of Flowers would still be able to pass through the plaza - unlike in the previous version.
The changes to traffic could start soon, with city staff recommending the portion of Alamo Street between Houston Street and Crockett Street to be permanently closed by June 1.
“It’s very much within our reach for this to be a world-class outdoor promenade facility that you might see in only a handful of cities in the world. I’m really, really excited about the presentation you gave,” said District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval.
The City of San Antonio, the Texas General Land Office, and Alamo Trust have been working on the Alamo Plan since 2015, with the goal of redesigning Alamo Plaza, restoring the Long Barracks and church, and adding a new museum and visitors center. Under the plan, the GLO, which already manages the Alamo, would lease the plaza from the city for at least 50 years and take control of its daily operations.
The city council is scheduled to vote on Apr. 15 on a revised ground lease and operating agreement with the GLO, which would include the changes to the plan. Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said it would maintain the city’s current financial commitment - $38 million.
The state has committed to spend $106 million, which will be used on acquiring historic buildings by the plaza, building an exhibition and collections building, and repairing the church and Long Barracks. The Alamo Trust is responsible for finding funding for the museum and visitors center as well as the interpretative elements on the plaza. Houston said the Trust is currently performing its “due diligence,” and its funding level in Wednesday’s presentation was marked “TBD.”
Though several council members expressed their support for the new plan, not all were enthused.
District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño, who was a central figure in developing the original Alamo Plan, expressed concerns about both the funding planning and details in the lease and operating agreement that council will be asked to approve.
Under the revised agreement, the plaza and surrounding areas would be split into two parcels to be leased. The first parcel, which includes the Paseo del Alamo and the area directly in front of the Long Barracks, would be leased to the GLO right away.
The second parcel, however, which includes Alamo Street, would not be ceded to the GLO’s control until both the THC has approved the design of a museum that repurposes the Crockett and Woolworth buildings and the funding for the museum has been identified.
City staff say there’s no deadline for those two conditions to be met, which worries Trevino.
“I’m just concerned that there’s just no payment penalty for nonperformance. And this sounds incredibly open-ended on such a quick turnaround,” he said.
District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry had concerns about closing down part of Alamo Street so quickly, which Houston said was not written into the lease, but rather something the city had discussed with its partners.
There’s an exhibit opening in mid-April for which they would like people to be able to safely cross the street, she said, and they’d like to more programming. Additionally, the city needs to do traffic modelling that will require the street’s closure.
Perry echoed Trevino’s concern about an indefinite wait for a museum.
“It could be another 10 years or 15 or 20 years before they secure the funding on this. And here we have that street closed this whole time. And I don’t agree with that at all,” he said.
If council approves the new agreement next week, it would then go to the GLO. After that’s finalized, design work for the plaza under the new plan would take place between May and December.
Houston said they would like to start construction on the plaza in early 2022 and finish within a two-year time frame.