Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
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.