Alamo Committee To Weigh Public, Expert Input at Tuesday Meeting

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A boy sits on an adult's shoulders in front of the Alamo.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

A boy sits on an adult's shoulders in front of the Alamo.

An advisory group overseeing changes to the Alamo and its surroundings will hear updated reports from experts involved in the redevelopment at a meeting Tuesday evening.

At the 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday at the Witte Museum, members of the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee will hear briefings by architects, archaeologists, and engineers involved in updating an initial draft of a new vision for the Alamo released in June.

The meeting comes as City and state officials and experts involved in revamping the historic site and Alamo Plaza weigh changes to the first draft of a proposed master plan unveiled June 7.

“This has been a process that we knew was going to have a lot of attention,” said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who chairs the committee. “You’re going to have a lot of passion and a lot of people who are going to be outspoken.”

In June, Alamo officials held a series of public input sessions that drew hundreds of people, including descendants of Alamo defenders and some organized groups like This Is Texas Freedom Force and members of the Battle of the Flowers Association.

Tuesday’s meeting is open to the public but will not include a public comment period in order to give committee members time to discuss feedback from previous public input sessions and from expert reports, said Treviño (D1) said.

Another public input meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. on July 18 at Thomas Jefferson High School, Treviño said. The advisory committee will meet on July 17 at a location to be determined, he said.

In a recent letter to Alamo Management Committee Chair Gene Powell, City Manager Sheryl Sculley asked the committee to consider alternatives to demolishing the historic, State-owned Crockett, Woolworth, and Palace buildings that are now mainly home to gift shops and tourist attractions.

Sculley’s letter suggested repurposing the three buildings for a proposed Alamo museum, with restaurant and retail space on the first floor. She also suggested a site plan that considers placing the museum in an area behind the Alamo known as the 1936 garden.

Sculley’s letter also noted engineers’ recommendations to close portions of Alamo and Houston streets to vehicular traffic while improving access for pedestrians.

At the Tuesday meeting, committee members will hear from staff of H2R Market Research, which surveyed more than 2,000 Alamo visitors and found support for such ideas as closing streets, adding shade trees and moving the 1936 Cenotaph to the southern end of Alamo Plaza.

Pape-Dawson Engineers staff also are scheduled to present the results of traffic modeling showing how vehicles would navigate around a closed Alamo Plaza, recently updated to include the effects of closing Houston Street.

Closing the crowded two-lane downtown thoroughfare near Alamo Plaza would spread traffic to less congested streets nearby and reduce traffic in critical intersections near the plaza, the updated study states.

The Alamo building and grounds are the property of the State of Texas, controlled by the Alamo Trust through an agreement with the Texas General Land Office. However, the City owns the surrounding Alamo Plaza and the 1936 Cenotaph built to honor those who fought and died at battle.

City Archaeologist Kay Hindes will give a presentation on what archaeologists have uncovered about the historic bounds of the 1836 battlefield where Texans died in an attempt to hold off the Mexican Army.

Restoring the outlines of that battlefield and creating a sense of historical gravity was the central theme of the Alamo redesign released June 7 by consultants Reed Hilderbrand, PGAV Destinations, and Cultural Innovations.

However, many of those recommendations in the initial proved controversial. As part of the ongoing debate, Alamo officials recently released a summary document and a frequently-asked-questions page based on what they heard at the meetings.

The responses on issues like what to do with the Cenotaph, a proposed museum, street closures, and the commercial buildings to the west of the Alamo illustrate how many different groups have opposing ideas about the Alamo’s future.

These groups have ranged from gun-rights activists to local architects and the San Antonio Conservation Society, which helped launch a petition in late June advocating against walls and street closures in a redesigned Alamo Plaza. The petition has gained nearly 3,000 online signatures.

There appears to be more consensus among State and local officials about preserving the church with the iconic façade and the historic Long Barracks, as well as creating an Alamo museum to feature historic Alamo artifacts, including the collection of musician Phil Collins, among other exhibits.

Any final changes to the master plan must be approved by the Alamo Master Plan’s Executive Committee – comprised of Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Land Commissioner George P. Bush. Closing streets, among other changes to City-owned property, would require the approval of City Council.

12 thoughts on “Alamo Committee To Weigh Public, Expert Input at Tuesday Meeting

  1. Nearly 3,000 online signatures. Let’s call it evenly 3,000 at the time I write this. These signatures could technically come from any previously unidentified IP address and/or account name, anywhere in the world. Still possibility for duplicates or alt accounts but we’ll assume in this case the number is zero and everyone was BSA Scouts Honor.

    Even if we assumed further that every single petition clicker were from San Antonio, we would be talking about 0.2% of the population. Or, 1/500 people in San Antonio have currently expressed opposition. This is extremely simplified as in reality it is less than that. I doubt everyone who clicked was from here. If we were being fair and calling it the state project that it is: That’s nearly 30 million people’s opinions. Now you’re at .01% of the population of Texas. 99.99% of Texas has not expressed opposition. 1 out of 10,000 people in Texas have clicked.

    I get it. It’s not a poll, it’s a petition. It doesn’t provide yes’s vs. no’s. Just a total of yeses for the no’s. The aggregate total of no’s is still significant as it relates to the population as a whole. Given the wide distribution of information online and through various publicly available outlets in a multitude of locations, and the networking capability of those heading the opposition, there should be more signatures to inspire the design team to act in accordance with opposition outcome.

    Due to this skew of perception (wow 3,000 that’s like everyone I know!), I think multiple polls conducted by several agencies are still the best way to go for a consensus.

  2. It is important to note that those responsible, the Alamo Management Committee have not abandoned the 42″ perimeter barrier intended to enclose Alamo Plaza. During museum operating hours, the north and south entrances would be closed, and both visitors and the public would be required to use a single entrance on the western side of the fenced compound. The plan is to have the citizens of San Antonio bypass the enclosed space via a 20′ wide pathway on the western side of the enclosed Alamo, excluded from the Plaza by a 42″ railing.

  3. They don’t give two diddleys about what the public thinks. They are going to do exactly what they want to do. They have no right to move that cenotaph. It is a representation of the dead who fell defending the Alamo. The descendants have spoken. Restore and remain.

    What I would really love to know, is what side of the battle was Trevino’s family on? When I first moved here a few years ago and started gearing up to vote in this area, I was told that Trevino wants to change the focus of the Alamo, that he supported the notion that supporting the battle of the Alamo to be racist. So what side of the battle were your ancestors on, Mr. Trevino? That would sure answer a lot of questions about your behavior.

    • I am not Mr. Trevino. I am a recently-turned octogenarian and spent formative years working across the street from the Alamo. In my opinion, the moving of the Cenotaph is not the end of the world. Putting it in front of the Menger Hotel would open the entire plaza to the view that the Alamo deserves.

  4. “An advisory group overseeing changes to the Alamo and its surroundings will hear “
    AN advisory group?? Now there’s another “advisory” group?
    Who are they?
    Is there a list of their names?

    Or more smoke & mirrors?

  5. Thank God for Brendan Gibbons writing for RReport. A bright, intelligent, and FINALLY INFORMATIVE report!
    Thank you, Brendan!

  6. Wasn’t the Cenotaph put where the bodies of the Texan defenders were burned? If that’s the case, it should stay. Would you move a Holocaust monument?

    • Check the FAQ: “Last year, the master plan proposed it be relocated to a location of one of the funeral pyres, which is said to be on the river and Market Street across from the Convention Center”

    • Yes the cenotaph is and has been a tombstone for the defenders. Its was a gift around 70 years ago to Texas history and honor. It has been part and parcel of Alamo every since, public domain! With San Antonio’s gift to the Alamo of Texas the plot it rests on went with it. Don’t even think about it, Mayor and GLO Bush!

  7. Wasn’t the Cenotaph put where the remains of the Texans were burned? It’s a shrine, hollowed ground. Would you move a Holocaust memorial?

    • The Alamo Cenotaph is NOT over the site where the remains of the Alamo defenders were burned–that location is along East Commerce Street near the current St. Joseph Catholic Church. It had been previously suggested in an earlier version of the Alamo Plaza redesign plan that the cenotaph, erected in 1936 for the Texas Centennial, be moved to the site of the pyres.

      I don’t support moving the cenotaph either, but not based on such misinformation or romanticism. The cenotaph already works as a landmark in its current place, pairing well with its surrounding buildings and anchoring the northern end of Alamo Plaza. It is not necessary to clear out the space in order to somehow invoke the lost grounds of the former Alamo enclosure, nor does the monument necessarily compete against or overshadow the Alamo itself. Only in schemes that insist on enclosing the space into a secure box will the cenotaph then become conspicuously dominant, but partitioning off Alamo Plaza into an isolated compound with glass walls or steel fencing is itself also misguided.

      The Alamo Cenotaph and Alamo Plaza suffer from essentially being reduced to multiple automobile traffic islands, and the total space hardly works as an actual, coherent plaza. This is why I support closing the streets and resurfacing and re-landscaping the space into a functioning pedestrian plaza.

      Demolishing historic buildings in order to build a fancy museum is also a grave mistake, as it breaks the existing human-scaled enclosing façade wall of the space which already works in framing the urban outdoor room. Such defining of historic urban spaces is hard do to, and we should not break what already works for a museum design whose proposed massing already shows that it cannot work. There is a beautiful Federal building behind the cenotaph that would make a perfect museum, and there is a lot of ubanistically dead, wasted land directly east of the Alamo garden if we must instead build an entirely new museum structure.

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