Buildings Across from the Alamo to be Purchased by State

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Properties on Alamo Street owned and or managed by Phillips Entertainment. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Properties on Alamo Street are leased by Phillips Entertainment, but are now owned by the State and will be part of the Alamo Master Plan.

Guinness World Records Museum, Tomb Raider 3D, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, apparel store Del Sol, and Grand Trolley Tours – all located on Alamo Plaza Street right across from the Alamo – will have a new landlord by the end of the year if all goes as the Texas General Land Office (GLO) plans.

The three buildings that house these tourist attractions and related businesses are under contract for purchase from Service Life and Casualty Insurance Co. of Austin by the state office, which is currently developing a master plan for the Alamo Plaza with the City of San Antonio. This plan will likely involve property renovations and the establishment of a museum.

Alamo Plaza, owned by the City, has long been a haven for tourists, street vendors, panhandlers, and the occasional evangelical zealot. Efforts to revitalize the plaza have been plentiful but none realized so far.

“The agreement has entered the due diligence period, during which the GLO will inspect the conditions of the buildings,” said GLO Press Secretary Brittany Eck. “If the transaction proceeds, we expect to close on the properties by the end of the year.”

The three buildings under contract are the Woolworth (518 E. Houston St.), Palace (319 Alamo Plaza) and Crockett (321 Alamo Plaza). The potential purchase was first reported by the Express-News on Monday.

Image created with Google Earth Pro.

Image created with Google Earth Pro.

Due to confidentiality agreements, Eck said the GLO could not release the total price of the buildings, but the purchase is the direct result of the Texas Legislature’s $31.5 million investment in preservation of the Alamo and redevelopment of the Alamo Plaza – $25 million of which was a one-time allocation for long-term efforts made on Sept. 1.

The length of existing leases is also confidential, but Eck said their terms will stay intact through the purchase.

“While there will be no immediate change, we anticipate the purchase of these buildings to be a significant consideration in the long-term master planning process,” she said. “(The purchase is) building enthusiasm and excitement on behalf of all the stakeholders.”

Phillips Entertainment Inc. is the Woolworth and Palace buildings’ main tenant and runs the Haunted Adventure, Tomb Rider, and Guinness World Records. The attractions management and consulting firm’s president and CEO Davis Phillips said the GLO hasn’t contacted him about the potential purchase.

“I keep reminding everybody,” Phillips said of the numerous conversations he’s had Tuesday with colleagues and employees, “we have very long-term leases.”

He said a common misconception is that the tourist attractions/businesses that line Alamo Plaza are against change. Phillips Entertainment is willing to entertain a master plan that involves moving some of its business, but only “if is focused on our future success as it is the Alamo’s.”

A street vendor pulls his cart of merchandise amid tourists and locals in front of the Alamo before the 2013 Battle of the Flowers Parade. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

A street vendor pulls his cart of merchandise amid tourists and locals in front of the Alamo before the 2013 Battle of the Flowers Parade. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

According to a study released in 2014, the annual economic impact of San Antonio’s hospitality industry, one of the local economy’s largest sectors, continues to increase from $8.1 billion in 2003 to $13.4 billion in 2013, a 66% increase. Maintaining the tourism industry’s economic impact should be a priority, Phillips said.

“If the buildings were gone today, the experience at the Alamo is still lacking. Folks from entertainment and tourism side of things that know how to take things and make them relevant, engaging, and exciting should be part of the (master plan) process,” he said. “Reading a wall is not an interactive experience, an item sitting in a case is not exciting.”

Phillips, who serves on the City’s Alamo Plaza Advisory Committee, also runs the Amazing Mirror Maze down the street on Alamo Plaza and the nearby Buckhorn Saloon & Museum and Texas Ranger Museum on Houston Street. Those properties are not part of the sale and Phillips does not manage the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Wax Museum or Odditorium. They are managed by Ripley Entertainment and also are located on prime real estate just across from the plaza’s southern extension.

Eck declined to comment on whether the GLO is looking into purchasing more properties near Alamo Plaza.

An entertainer at Ripley's Haunted Adventure poses for a photo. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

An entertainer at Ripley’s Haunted Adventure poses for a photo. Photo by Scott Ball.

“The City has been working up a partnership with the General Land Office (which manages the Alamo) and the Alamo Plaza Advisory Committee to make a master plan,” Center City Development and Operations Director Lori Houston told the Rivard Report during an interview last week. “Our goal is to connect our residents and visitors to the Alamo.”

The master plan will be presented to City Council for adoption within a year, likely next summer. The City is expected to contribute about $17 million in coming years to redevelopment of Alamo Plaza and surrounding areas.

The collaborative plan is an effort to better honor the Alamo and the Alamo Plaza as important historical and cultural sites that are now part of the serial World Heritage designation granted by UNESCO at its July meeting in Bonn, Germany. The plan is expected to include the construction of a museum and visitor center that tells the history of the site from its indigenous occupation, through the establishment there in the 1740s and 1750s of Mission San Antonio de Valero, its secularization by the Church in 1793, and later, as the site of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, which World Heritage delegates from Europe, Asia and South America cited in their unanimous support of the U.S. application.

British singer-songwriter Phil Collins donated to the Alamo what is considered to be the largest known private collection of Alamo and Texas Revolution artifacts last year, but it came with the stipulation that a proper, “Smithsonian-level” visitor center museum be established near the site in seven years. The Alamo Endowment board has been raising funds for such a center ever since.

 

This story was originally published on Tuesday afternoon.

*Top image: Properties on Alamo Street managed by Phillips Entertainment.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

Related Stories:

A New Era Dawns for the Alamo and Alamo Plaza

Texas Lege Adds $25 Million for Alamo Plaza Master Plan

San Antonio Missions & Alamo Now a World Heritage Site

Daughters Lose the Alamo, San Antonio Gains an Opportunity

11 thoughts on “Buildings Across from the Alamo to be Purchased by State

  1. The area surrounding Mission San Antonio de Valero has been a melting pot of culture and commerce since its inception. And the Spanish meant for plazas in Bexar to be diverse. City offices, big banks, and touristy hotels are choking several of our city’s plazas already. Barricading a plaza’s streets (as on Main) or placing a building on it (as on Military) does not serve its intended purpose either.

    I look forward to a respectful repository of Phil Collin’s gifts but I bemoan the future loss of Alamo Plaza as a city center. I want raspas. I want political rallies. I want an occasional protest. I want to see something I’ve never seen before. That’s what I find whenever I visit our downtown mission. A la mode is defined as trendy or in style. Our Alamo is defined by tradition. Let’s keep it that way.

  2. I agree. They can put all Phil Collins stuff in the old Institute of Texas Cultures building at hemisphere plaza. Built in 1968 the year of his first recording! We can lay on the floor again and watch the slide show on the ceiling and listen to his greatest hits before going upstairs for memorabilia. And cross selling at the gift shop! He can do a cover of San Antonio Rose!

    Then rebuild the Alamo forecourt as a plaza without the street. I’m undecided about the carnival buildings. Maybe we could do a real 1800s theme and move executions to a firing squad.

  3. Yeah you know what’s NOT an attractive look for the Alamo? Hokey tourist attractions. Sorry, just not into that type of thing… Maybe it’s just me, but if we focus more on the locals, like the city has so long forgotten to do, to bring the residents downtown, things follow suit. Like we always say, no one comes to a city to see the suburbs.

  4. A good starting point: Get rid of the god-damned fudge, ice-cream, fast-food, etc… on the Alamo grounds. It’s not a theme park. Those in need of calories can visit food places before or after they visit the Alamo. You don’t fucking eat fudge at a cemetery, church or museum.

  5. “Reading a wall is not an interactive experience, an item sitting in a case is not exciting.”

    Well, that pretty much sums up why this site has fallen into such disrepair. The most hallowed ground in Texas apparently requires some sort of wax museum/carnival atmosphere to stay relevant. Hopefully the GLO gives the Alamo the respect it deserves by removing these tenants and repurposing the buildings for historical exhibits.

    Even better, they could tear out the buildings and create additional park space in front of the Alamo. Anything that can be done to expand the site footprint and tear out roads and concrete would be greatly appreciated. After visiting equivalent historical sites on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and in Europe, the state of the Alamo site feels embarrassing. Fortunately, it appears change is on the horizon.

  6. Who is Phillips trying to bluff? “We have very long-term leases” means absolutely nothing. Once the state owns the buildings, it can exercise it’s right of eminent domain and condemn the leases. Then this disgusting shlock can be exterminated. Phillips’ idea of moving these attractions to a downtown “entertainment district” should be summarily dismissed. The last thing the CBD is an area that reeks of Bourbon Street or “Boys’ Town” just as downtown is finally about to awaken from it’s deep sleep.

  7. The Alamo needs to go back to the way it originally looked….with a nice beautiful wall around it. However, we could build this nice wall with big beautiful doors for all of the tourists.

  8. On behalf of the many disabled people who would like to just have the chance to see the Alamo, please keep at least one lane of Alamo open to traffic. Trying to find nearby handicapped parking, maneuvering a wheelchair or walker over uneven surfaces, subjecting someone to heat, cold, too much sunlight, and pollen is not an option for many people. The same could apply to those with children in strollers. I myself enjoy driving by to see that iconic building AND all of the people enjoying the area like the town plaza it was meant to be. The cheesy entertainment businesses need to move, but to a location very close by to keep the dynamic foot traffic in the area. I would like a more respectful and historical use of the area, but not a walled off mausoleum. Keep the area accessible.

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