SAN ANTONIO – City Council members approved a revised ground lease and operating agreement for the Alamo Plan in a 10-1 vote on Thursday.
District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño was the lone dissenting vote, after unsuccessfully trying to delay the issue.
By signing off on the new agreement with the Texas General Land Office, which will take control of the plaza from the city, the council gave its stamp of approval on the broad strokes of a new plan to redesign Alamo Plaza.
The revised Alamo Plan retains many of the key elements from its predecessor: a museum and visitors center, closing down area streets to vehicular traffic, and restoring historic buildings at the site.
However, the Cenotaph will not be moved, there will be no railings that would block off pedestrian access, pavers will be used to mark off the footprint rather than a lowered surface, and parades like the Battle of Flowers will still be able to pass through the plaza.
It will also close down a portion of Alamo Street between Crockett Street and Houston Street by June 1.
“It’s a much improved version because I think it addresses some of the major issues that I and many of my colleagues and members of the public had with the original plan,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said after the vote.
The future of the Alamo Plan was thrown into uncertainty after the Texas Historical Commission voted 12-2 in September to block the relocation of the Cenotaph - a controversial but central element to the original redesign plans.
Helping to guide the plan onto this new path was District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, whom Nirenberg tapped at the beginning of March for a spot on the plan’s Management Committee and as a tri-chair on the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee.
“It is time to get started on the next step of this process. It won’t be easy, but it won’t happen without our vote of support today,” District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran told her colleagues before the vote.
The one vote Viagran didn’t get, though, was that of her predecessor on those two committees - District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño.
Treviño had been a longtime driving force behind the original Alamo Plan and was a vocal proponent of moving the Cenotaph. Viagran’s appointment to the management and citizens advisory committees meant his unwilling departure.
While the District 1 councilman said he was supportive of the new design direction, he had concerns about the terms of the lease and how quickly it was being passed.
Treviño, with the support of District 10 Councilman Clayton Perry, tried to delay consideration of the new lease until May. After that failed in a 9-2 vote, Treviño cast the lone vote against the revised agreement.
“This is arguably the city’s highest-profile contractual agreement, and yet we are not given enough time to properly review the actual lease,” Treviño said.
The agreement leases the city-owned plaza and some surrounding streets to the GLO for 50 years, with two, 25-year extensions. The GLO already manages the historic Alamo site.
Treviño’s previously-voiced concerns over the agreement spurred at least one change in the final draft - a deadline for getting a museum and visitors center planned and funded.
The land the city leases to the GLO under the agreement comes in two parcels. The first, which includes the Paseo del Alamo and the area directly in front of the Long Barracks, has already been leased to the GLO through the original 2018 agreement and stays under its control. A second parcel that includes Alamo Street won’t be given over until both a museum plan has been approved and its funding secured.
After Treviño voiced concerns at an Apr. 7 council meeting about an open-ended agreement in which the museum might not end up materializing, a deadline was added. If the museum plans and funding aren’t set by Jan. 1, 2026, the city won’t have to lease the second parcel to the state.
The third partner in the Alamo Plan, the Alamo Trust, is responsible for raising the funds for the museum. Its new executive director, Kate Rogers, told KSAT via email that the Trust believes the museum will not only be planned and funded before the 2026 deadline, but it will also be constructed.
“We believe we will have the Alamo Visitor Center and Museum open to the public in 2024, in time for the 300th anniversary of the Alamo moving to its present day location,” Rogers wrote.
Rogers said fundraising will be done through private donations. Thursday’s presentation on the new plan did not list an estimated budget for the museum.
The city has $38 million to spend on the project, and the state has committed $106 million so far.
The lease and operating agreement will now go to the GLO for Commissioner George P. Bush’s signature. Once the deal is finalized, design work will get underway in earnest.
The designs will ultimately need to be approved by the Historic and Design Review Commission, which Assistant City Manager Lori Houston expects will happen in December. A first draft is expected around August or September.
“Our goal is to start construction on the plaza in early 2022. So hopefully we’ll have a completed Plaza done in 18 to 24 months from that start day,” Houston said.
While the new plan gets rid of many of the most controversial elements of previous plans, it does not appease everyone.
Several members of indigenous communities spoke in passionate opposition to the plan before the council vote.
“May the spirit of our ancestors haunt you all for the desecration of our sacred burial grounds,” said Mary Jane Martinez of the Borrado Nation.
Houston said the city is committed to investigating all the records of burials pertaining to Alamo Plaza, and there will be an “action plan” for how to handle the discovery of any graves.