Alamo Committee Gets More Details on Traffic, Branding, Archaeology Studies

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The public sits behind tables reserved for the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Citizens sit behind tables reserved primarily for the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee.

As experts work on a revised draft of a plan to revamp Alamo Plaza, an advisory committee on Tuesday heard some of the background research underpinning the move to reshape San Antonio’s most iconic site.

The Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee consists of 28 members appointed by City and State officials to advise the Alamo Master Plan Management Committee, which is now weighing changes to an Alamo master plan unveiled in early June by a team of consultants.

On Thursday, the committee heard about a branding study by consultant H2R Market Research, a traffic study by Pape-Dawson Engineers, and past archaeological work done on the Alamo and its surroundings.

Many committee members had not seen the research before Tuesday, and several members asked to see the reports on paper so they could better advise the Management Committee.

“I just don’t want to be part of a committee that 50 years from now they look back and say, ‘Why’d they let them tear all that stuff up?’” said committee member Ann McGlone, an architect who had served on a 1994 committee studying Alamo Plaza.

Some ideas in the draft plan – closing South Alamo and East Houston streets to vehicular traffic, demolishing historic buildings across from the Alamo, and moving the 1936 Cenotaph to another location on Alamo Plaza – have proved controversial. Tuesday’s meeting at the Witte Museum drew dozens of people, many holding signs opposing the street closures and movement of the Cenotaph.

“The committee is considering all public feedback as we move forward,” City Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who co-chairs the committee, told the crowd. “We are listening to your input, and input matters.”

The planning process included rounds of public meetings in mid-June, with another planned for next Wednesday. Thursday’s meeting had no public comment period, much to the chagrin of some attendees whose shouting at times stopped the meeting.

It was a sign of the strong feelings some residents have about the former mission that in 1836 became a battleground where Texans fought to withstand a siege by the oncoming Mexican Army.

“We’re looking for honest history,” committee member George Cisneros told the crowd, to whoops and applause. “If it’s always about the visitor experience and what we have to do to make it new…we’re really not doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Sue Ann Pemberton, a University of Texas at San Antonio architecture assistant professor who co-chairs the committee, pointed out that “visitors” in the plan’s context means everyone who visits the Alamo, not just out-of-town tourists.

Benjamin Mowris, director of operations at H2R Market Research, presents the results of the branding study.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Benjamin Mowris, director of operations at H2R Market Research, presents the results of the branding study.

Cisneros was speaking about the results of the branding study presented by Benjamin Mowris, director of operations at H2R Market Research, which conducted a survey of more than 2,000 local, Texan, and national visitors about their perceptions of the Alamo.

The study found strong support for creating more “reverent space” at the site, adding more trees and shade, and more clearly delineating the boundaries of the original 1836 battlefield, Mowris said at the meeting.

Much of the understanding of the historic footprint of the original mission and battleground is the result of archival research and a series of archaeological digs in the area, the most recent in 2016.

City Archaeologist Kay Hindes showed slides of some items she and colleagues unearthed in the area. They include some remnants of war, like the tip of a Mexican non-commissioned officer’s sword blade that may have been broken in battle.

But more common were reminders of the day-to-day life of people who lived at the site, including Native Americans. Archaeologists found most indigenous potsherds, or ceramics fragments, near the west wall, which is known from archival research as the place where most Native Americans lived, Hindes explained.

“In this case, the archaeology completely backed up the archival record,” Hindes said. “And when that happens, it’s always so gratifying.”

More controversial was a traffic modeling study by Pape-Dawson Engineers. Gene Dawson, the firm’s president, told the crowd about the results of traffic modeling study that found that closing Houston Street near Alamo Plaza would reduce congestion in nearby intersections.

Dawson also advocated for converting Losoya Street west of the Alamo into a two-way street to better connect Broadway and South Alamo Street and move traffic through downtown. That would involve converting two seven-foot parking lanes and two 11-foot drive lanes into three 12-foot drive lanes.

That led some committee members to wonder how such a change would affect downtown businesses.

“I’ve loaded beer trucks in my life and I know I need 16 feet from the curb to get that keg off the truck on the streetside,” Cisneros said. “Those are concerns I still think we need to talk about.”

These and other issues will continue to come up in the planning process. Alamo planners will hold another public input session at 6:30 p.m. on July 18 at Thomas Jefferson High School.

The Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee was originally supposed to hold another meeting next week, but that has been canceled, Pemberton confirmed. The committee will meet again after the Management Committee has a chance to meet again, she said.

 

20 thoughts on “Alamo Committee Gets More Details on Traffic, Branding, Archaeology Studies

  1. Thanks to Mr. George Cisneros who questioned the traffic study. Over the decades, traffic downtown has gotten terrible. It can’t be attributed solely to increased number of vehicles generally. For example, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen 18-wheelers blocking traffic northbound on Navarro in the middle of the day. Then there are the traffic lanes given away for private hotel valet use ….. I can support semi-permanent closure of Alamo (with bollards that can be removed for events like the parades), but it should only be done with a robust study and concrete plan to improve traffic. Maybe we even need to limit truck size downtown as is done in NYC.

    • The lax enforcement is part of the problem. I’ve noticed a slow decline in the number of parking enforcement officers on the streets. SAPD and the Park Police do nothing anymore. They use to when we had foot patrol officers downtown. That was a long time ago.

      I think it’s cheaper for the delivery companies to pay the tickets than it is for them to take the time to park properly.

  2. If Pape-Dawson did a really thorough job, they would realize that LaSoya can barely handle 2 lanes of 1-way traffic, let alone 2-way traffic. Since they didn’t get that one right, makes me wonder how legitimate the rest of their report was. Who paid them off?

    Most of the rest of the country only knows about the Alamo because of the battles fought there. Let that draw them in and teach them the rest of the history. Do not desecrate the cenotaph. Renovate and remain.

        • It matter because it explains why his fervor to diminish the recognition of the battle. And he hasn’t bothered to explain himself. After all, he does work for us, does he not?

        • Get off your duff and WALK the extra feet from any number of large, convenient downtown parking garages. And go downtown on Tuesdays – it’s FREE PARKING everywhere!

    • Paid them off? Who would do that? Why? To what end? Who would benefit from them being “paid off”? Inane statements like that RC just illustrate how truly ignorant you are. Stay out of the discussion because you lower the exchange to your level. Stay in the basement with your aluminum foil hat on.

    • Nobody’s “desecrating” the Cenotaph. There is no “Unknown Soldier “ buried beneath it. It is not the site of some mythological “line in the sand” allegedly drawn by Travis. Davy Crockett’s did not die there. It was merely a location deemed AVAILABLE for siting the memorial statue back in 1936 – period. NOBODY wants to tear it down or trash it. It DOES however need serious, immediate restoration work done to it. Moving it a matter of feet to in front of The Menger makes it of even more prominence and import. Ever seen the Colonne Vendome War Memorial in front of the Ritz Hotel in Paris? Stunning, functional, dignified symmetry and beauty. We can do this San Antonio!

  3. So now it’s beer trucks. Every interest group is finding an excuse to hamstring this project.

    Delivery drivers don’t win any fans among downtowners when they block traffic lanes. Two to three days out of seven, a delivery truck blocks a traffic lane on Losoya.

    Message to FedEx, UPS and the beer distributors: Use smaller trucks. They exist. Many are in use in cities with densely packed downtowns.

    • Excuse me Charles, but as a designer, manufacturer, and distributor of hair ties for left-handed cosmopolitan connoisseurs for 55 out of the 77 recognized genders, I resent this statement.

      Blind spots occur when a left handed person must put in the hair tie, when walking with the flow of traffic of course, creating a dangerous window for about 7.3 seconds on average, where as large beer trucks come in handy for this niche. I say handy, but in reality, a necessity. You see, without the presence of a larger vehicle, or a very shiny robust object, many are at risk of tripping and suffering collision and even death with oncoming traffic as the vehicle is a visual queue for 3d space orientation of the multi-tasking individual.

      It’s an ecosystem Charles, you can’t just come in here all willy nilly.

  4. Trying to imagine Losoya NOT jammed is pretty difficult, but I love the idea of closing off Alamo Plaza to vehicular traffic and I like a lot of what I’ve seen as far as it relates to pedestrian and vehicular traffic elsewhere downtown.

    I remember someone in one of the public hearings saying it was a shame the Alamo didn’t have a historical “feel.” It doesn’t command the reverence of a major historical site, like Gettysburg or Valley Forge. That resonated with me. I’d love to honor the Alamo with a little more silence and reverence.

  5. I find it “interesting” that the group that started Fiesta and has a 127 year history commemorating our fallen heroes at the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto does not even ask the ladies of the Battle of Flowers to have a seat on the decision committee. Disgraceful that our beautiful city’s leaders, City Council, did not extend an invitation.

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