Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Alamo officials released a proposed 50-year agreement Thursday that outlines the terms of the Texas General Land Office's lease with the City of San Antonio to take over portions of Alamo Plaza, surrounding streets, and adjacent historic buildings to redevelop the historic site.
Approval of the 18-page proposal would solidify the plan to move forward on closing streets, studying the historic buildings on Alamo Plaza, fencing off the historic mission's plaza footprint, relocating the Alamo Cenotaph, and other elements of the multimillion-dollar plan. Click here to download the proposal, on which the San Antonio City Council is expected to vote Oct. 18.
The no-rent lease, which can be renewed twice for 25 years, includes stipulations about when additional entrances to the historic plaza will be open to allow more access, when portions of the museum will offer free admission, maximum wait-times for admission lines, and general museum hours.
In a news release, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush called it a "historic agreement [that will] ensure that the Alamo will be protected and preserved for generations of Texans to come. Negotiations on a zero-cost lease have not been taken lightly, and all parties involved have done their due diligence to ensure the agreement tells the full story of the Battle of the Alamo and Texas Revolution."
Beyond that, Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said the plan seeks to honor the other layers of history at the Alamo, telling stories that span the mission's 300-year-old history, from the influence of indigenous peoples to modern traditions.
"The overarching theme here is to finally, once and for all, create an experience that is in line with the incredible stories that exist here," Treviño said in a phone interview.
While the document details wait-times pertaining to all portions of the complex, Alamo CEO Doug McDonald said he does not anticipate that there will be long lines to enter the plaza. Two additional entrances/exits will be open on more than 30 occasions – from Fiesta to NCAA Final Four weekends – when downtown activity increases. When the museum is closed, there will be unrestricted access to the plaza.
Museum hours generally will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to the document.
"The GLO will monitor and report to City the entry wait-time of Alamo visitors," according to the agreement. "The Alamo wait-time target will be less than 5 minutes with a maximum wait-time of 10 minutes."
It's too soon to tell what kind of security measures will be in place when the complex opens, McDonald said, which is estimated to be 2024. "We're not prescribing those things."
The museum's five free-admission nights each year are intended to provide visiting opportunities to families who can't afford museum admission or don't have time to visit during the day, McDonald said.
Approval of the lease proposal is the final step before implementation of the redevelopment plan can begin, said Treviño, who is a tri-chair of the Alamo Citizen Advisory Committee and a member of Alamo Management Committee.
"We feel very good about the lease reflecting all the values that came from the visioning and guiding principles," he said, which were developed in 2014 by the citizen committee. As part of the agreement, if the state is found to be neglecting its responsibilities, the City may seek to terminate the lease.
Before the agreement goes to Council, the City's Planning Commission will consider it and the proposed South Alamo Street closure and partial conveyance to the State during a joint meeting with the Historic and Design Review Commission on Wednesday, Oct. 10. The HDRC will vote on the general plan design and relocation of the Alamo Cenotaph.
The plan to relocate the Cenotaph 500 feet south has drawn protest from some groups, including some descendants of the Alamo defenders who died during the 1836 battle. Some members of the urban planning community opposed blocking off the Alamo Plaza’s original footprint to foot traffic.
Members of the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, who oppose the Cenotaph relocation, filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit Tuesday. Lee Spencer White, president of the association, alleges the GLO and managers of the Alamo site denied the group access to the Alamo church for a candlelight memorial and prayer service, among other allegations in the lawsuit.
McDonald called the suit "frivolous" and "full of inaccuracies."
"We were delighted to partner with the Alamo Defender Descendants Association for their ceremony this year," McDonald stated in an email with a link to a video recording of the ceremony outside the church. "We have photographic and video proof that the ceremony was held here. It was a lovely evening.
"... This is a waste of the Alamo’s time and resources when we should be educating people on the history of Texas. The lawsuit brought forth by Ms. White and others is an unfortunate event for the Alamo, and unfortunate for all other groups who have made fair compromises to old traditions in order for the Alamo to be transformed in a way that will make all of Texas very proud."