Most Committee Members Skip Private Meeting to Discuss Alamo Redesign

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Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Eric Kramer, Reed Hilderbrand principal and partner, briefs the Rivard Report on the revised master plan on June 6, 2018. Reed Hilderbrand was not present at the private meeting Wednesday.

A group of developers critical of the design elements proposed for the multi-million-dollar Alamo Plaza redevelopment scheduled a private meeting Wednesday in an effort to discuss alternative designs with the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee.

However, efforts to have their voices heard likely were thwarted thanks to an email by Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) that said the gathering was not "approved by the Management Committee."

Only three of developer Phillip Bakke's colleagues on the 21-member Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee showed up to the meeting at Casa Rio, a restaurant on the River Walk. Bakke, who organized the meeting, and David Lake of Lake/Flato Architects have been vocal about their unhappiness with the proposed Alamo Plaza designs. Both prefer a plan that keeps public, easy access to Alamo Plaza and most of the nearby streets open.

During one of four public meetings regarding the plan this month, a woman asked Bakke about his "plan" for the Alamo.

"I don't have a plan," Bakke recalled saying to the woman. "But I told her I would talk to the folks that have different ideas."

Bakke said the Casa Rio meeting originally was an attempt to get the committee members to get to know each other. Then it became a way to make good on what he told the public.

Treviño, who co-chairs the advisory committee and sits on the Management Committee that oversees it, sent an email out on Wednesday afternoon notifying members but said it was not intended to deter attendance, but rather to answer questions he had been receiving about it from committee members. Treviño said his attitude toward those inquiries was "you go if you want. This is not our meeting."

"They have the right to meet, to talk about this, to do all those things," Treviño told the Rivard Report on Thursday, "but what I wanted to clear up is that this [was] not a meeting that was staffed or sanctioned by the management committee."

It's unclear if all the committee members were invited. Treviño said he was not and neither was the design team comprised of firms Reed Hilderbrand, PGAV Destinations, and Cultural Innovations.

At the meeting, Bakke invited David Lake of Lake/Flato Architects, Irby Hightower of Alamo Architects, Bill Shown of Silver Ventures, and Madison Smith of Overland Partners to "share their ideas on how we can bring consensus and compromise to the existing masterplan draft," Bakke said in a letter sent to Treviño on Thursday.

Bakke praised the work they have done for the community.

"The architect of record, as selected by the Alamo Management Committee, is Reed-Hildebrand and the role of the citizen’s advisory committee is to provide feedback and input on the work of the Alamo Management Committee and not of third parties," Treviño stated in his Wednesday email. "The Alamo Management Committee just hosted a series of public meetings and collected input from hundreds of citizens, which will be presented to you on July 10."

The project has a team of architects hired to take feedback and direction, Treviño told the Rivard Report. They have heard the feedback about keeping the streets and plaza open, he said, and "just because somebody doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean they are not listening to you."

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) and Patricia Mejia answer questions that the audience texted in regarding the interpretive plan.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) and Patricia Mejia answer questions that the audience texted in regarding the interpretive plan on June 20, 2018.

Bakke said it's not about hiring new architects. The concern is that alternatives aren't being fully considered by the advisory committee or the Management Committee.

"These aren’t third party folks ... they are our fellow citizens and they should have every right to be heard," Bakke said. "In defense of Councilman Treviño, I know his heart is in the right place.

"And it's incredibly hard to get everyone on the same page of music. Especially when it comes to the Alamo."

It's unlikely that an official meeting will be held for the advisory committee to hear the group's counterproposals, Treviño said.

"I have to also respect my fellow Management Committee members [who would have a say in that],” he said. "I think it’s improbable. What they’re asking is not fair to the process.”

The Alamo Master Plan's Executive Committee – comprised of Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Land Commissioner George P. Bush – would need to approve of any proposed plan. City Council also would need to approve street closures if the plan is to proceed as proposed.

Nirenberg declined to comment for this article.

The Management Committee is comprised of two representatives each from the City of San Antonio, Texas General Land Office, and the Alamo Endowment, and was formed as part of an agreement between the entities to jointly fund and plan the redevelopment of the Alamo complex, plaza, and surrounding downtown district.

"[The] Mayor and City Manager encouraged us to engage with the citizens' committee," Lake told the Rivard Report. "We were only doing what engaged citizens should do and that is to have our concerns heard."

22 thoughts on “Most Committee Members Skip Private Meeting to Discuss Alamo Redesign

  1. Close the streets, move the cenotaph, demolish the tourist trap buildings. These are the right things to do. Do not let a vocal minority change that direction.

    • FYI the former woolworth building at alamo and main in march 1960 had the first peaceably integrated lunch counter in the South . I dont know how much longer it took to let Black people try on clothes there, but the proximity to the Alamo probably played a part, and those are the kinds of community fabric threads needed to weave a complete tapestry story. The Alamo isnt just sculpture. Its a reminder of heroic fighting against long odds for the freedom to protect your property from Mexican confiscation, the very slaves whose descendants went on to integrate across the street.

      The cenograoh, however, is just sculpture and should be moved closer to where most of the defenders were burned in funeral pyres along alameda (commerce)

      • I seem to view the battle as a fight to keep slaves, the “property rights” point you are arguing. the Mexican residents of San Antonio in large part did not agree to the invading force occupying the Alamo which is why they were left without backup, it was a suicide mission for slavery.

        Though I do agree that the building should not be demolished.

        • The Mexicans you refer to were a product of a people who did not agree for only about a couple of decades. Before that, well a few hundred years before that, 3 to 4 centuries, the people they are descended from, imported slavery to the Americas as the Spanish and the Portuguese. Don’t act like the people of Mexican descent don’t have the blood of slavery on their hands as well. So sick of this line like the Anglos are the only ones to have slavery in their background or like they didn’t start the trend in the entire region or subject the natives to a hegemony of their culture. Yay you ended what you started for hundreds of years. Good for you. We should all applaud you. The Portuguese and the Spanish literally imported slavery in the Americas in the inadvertent process of creating Mexico and Mexicans.

          • It’s clear you don’t know much about the racial dynamic of México, colonial México, or how the mexican people we’re Enslaved by the spanish colonizers who made up a small minority percentage of the actual population of México. To state that mexicans in general agreed with the policies of the oppressors laws is to say all americans including black americans agreed with slavery, it is horrendous and lacking of perspective.

            Also lets be clear to state the facts. The spanish did not create México, México had existed here long before any european arrived. Sure the spanish came and went and brought with them a few cultural influences, as did México provide many in return, but that is about it.

          • Friyay,
            Your argument sounds like a guilty conscious. It’s important for everyone to own up to their ancestor’s complicity in maintaining slavery. Yes, we get it – the Spanish also had a role in Alamo but we’re talking about the Battle of the Alamo not Spanish colonialism. This is another story.

    • You are correct and I agree – it is really that simple. The buildings could have the façades removed to another location to complicate the process a little bit.

      • My reply was meant for John’s opinion – it keeps coming up under Steve Talbert’s opinion – that is not where I intended it to be.

    • You are correct and I agree – it is really that simple. The buildings could have the façades removed to another location to complicate the process a little bit.

    • While I agree with moving the cenotaph to a more appropriate location, demolishing of historic buildings that simply “house” tourist traps is a mistake. Celebrate the history of the buildings by giving more prestigious programs to them that feature the history and culture of the area. We absolutely have to rid the area of programs that disrespect the Alamo. A retrofit of these buildings to, for instance, a museum or cultural art gallery could be a great compliment to the Alamo. But do not blame the buildings for their tenants. Additionally, from a stance of sustainability, it is just a complete waste and loss to demolish buildings, let alone on an urban and dense site. San Antonio is working to be a more sustainable city, so it should be considered how this area could be a response and example of that.

      Lastly, I do not agree with closing the streets *permanently*. There are terrific examples across multiple cities of having streets that are highly flexible to host traffic in “off-hours” and close the streets for events and community gatherings at this historic site. It makes the street more dynamic and capable of hosting whatever the future may need. Flexibility is a responsible choice.

  2. If these people wanted to be heard, why didnt they go to the public hearings and say something? I dont know exactly what they are thinking should be done, but all the things mentioned have already been voiced very loudly.

    Seems to me they just want to horn in like being part of a behind the scenes brainstorming planning committee. They dont have ideas or than just want to be the ones who plan it.

    Maybe they could have a charette at UTSA and have the students flesh out their ideas and then publish a book like the architect Stanley Tigerman did in the 1970s as late entries in the Chicago tribune tower competition of the 1920s.

    • Some of these people were at the public input meetings. We were only allowed to text in our comments or write them on a note card. Those avenues aren’t very conducive to getting your ideas across or having a discussion.

  3. Although never openly stated, most of the plan is based on making this a reverent (religious-like) area. The city is going to let this happen. And it will essentially kill life on Alamo Plaza. We will be revisiting the idea of revitalizing Alamo Plaza in a decade or so due to lack of life there.

    • Totally disagree. Changing the current fly-blown, tacky, flea market atmosphere of today’s Plaza into something more respectful of our states most symbolic historical site does not “kill life. Au contraire, you couldn’t keep mom, pop and the kids away from visiting the Alamo for all the picante sauce in Texas!

  4. I would like to hear Mr. Bakke’s ideas and have the visuals to compare, but that’s not going to happen with the current construct of public meetings, and given he is part of the committee. I don’t believe I am alone with these sentiments.
    There are parts of the presented plan that are necessary, parts that could be really positive, but some things that beg the question: Why?
    Let’s all keep talking about how to work it out.

    • Everyone keep talking for sure. But is there any evidence that anyone is listening?
      I’d like to see Mr Bakke’s plan, too.
      I’d like to hear whether Councilman Trevino has an actual plan for considering the cards and texts from the meetings where the public was silenced. The last time I saw those mentioned there was no plan for considering the public input, just some vague intention to look at them. It seemed very unlike him!
      Some parts of the plan do make you wonder “Why?”
      I’ve seen nasty comments about anyone who opposes any part of it as if we’re anti-progress and anti-change. I’m not opposed to closing the street to traffic. I am 100% opposed to tearing down the antique buildings. I couldn’t care less where that ugly cenotaph goes. If we are divided up into pro- and anti-plan camps which group would I go sit with?

  5. I am baffled by Councilman Trevino’s over-reaction to Mr. Bakke’s proposed meeting to hear from others in the community about the Alamo Master Plan. Especially when one considers those mentioned at the meeting — the professionals mentioned have a wealth of experience and knowledge that would benefit the conversation regarding the Master Plan. Instead, feeling threatened, Mr. Trevino sends a letter to all concerned that Mr. Bakke’s informal gathering was not approved. So what? It didn’t need to be approved! It was simply a meeting with citizens of San Antonio who wished to provide input about the Master Plan. Perhaps THAT was the problem!
    The defensive nature of any suggestions contrary to the proposed Master Plan certainly suggest to me that the “deal is done”, that the community meetings have not been in good faith nor taken seriously, and that short of litigation, there is no negotiating in connection with the terms of the Master Plan. What a shame.
    The “plan” to “re-imagine” the Alamo was a mistake from the outset. It did not need to be re-imagined. What was required was a legitimate conversation with the citizens of the community and a professional group (at least from Texas, in my opinion) who understood the Alamo and its importance in Texas history. Instead, from the Texas General Land Office down, there has been a “Plan” forced upon the citizens of San Antonio and Texas. Only the most absurd parts of the original Plan have been jettisoned, I hope, for good: removal of heritage live oaks and not installing a glass wall around the original grounds of the Alamo (those two thoughtless ideas alone certainly would have made the space the hottest plaza in San Antonio).
    We will see. But I believe the Master Plan is, in fact, a done deal. I do not expect to see any changes. Maybe others are more optimistic. I’m not. We will know soon enough.

    • Completely agree with WW Hall. It appears that the “horse has already left the stable”. The correct process by which to make monumental changes to something as significant to our community (Texas and San Antonio) as the Alamo, is by leveraging local industry experts. Their input, as stakeholders, is critical to the process. They do not seem to have adequate access to the process.

      Nothing against the current architect of record and its capabilities, but the firm is based in Cambridge, MA. The process should have included input from local architects, landscape design, etc. as part of the consulting team.

  6. Very disappointing that a gathering that brought together 4 highly respected architects to develop a cohesive response to the currently proposed plan would be thwarted. I would think well organized comments to the current plan would be welcome and more useful than gathering of irate citizens.

    The meeting proposed by Mr. Bakke could have presented an opportunity to combine the GLO’s contribution to enhance the Alamo with well respected local feedback and begin to build a reasonable consensus.

  7. I went to the Public Meetings, well, two of them. They were pretty much the same and i do think everyone was heard. People did submit their comments and questions and each one was read allowed each night. Many people were upset that THEIR question or comment was not read, but it was because they had made or asked the same comment or question the night before and the staff was not going to repeat something they already had in their files to review.
    The moving of the cenotaph was the biggest concern of each night, and i learned from someone there that the placement of the monument was in the center of the Alamo Battle Field as we know it. Sure, the bodies were taken to other locations to be burned while Santa Anna and his men were also burning other aspects of the Alamo. But so far, i have read there are three locations and even those have not been totally confirmed and are just hearsay. Maybe separate plaques can be placed at those locations. The Cenotaph is a HUGE Monument and needs to remain in place. It is historic and has value in its location as a place of reverence and reflection. To stand near it and have the walls of the Alamo near or the Shrine near brings so much more meaning for a visitor.
    There are other issues of course. ONE I’d like to bring up and feel that it has not been completely investigated is the use of the Old Post Office/Courthouse and Federal Building. What is to become of that when WE get our NEW and much larger Federal Building being designed and located where our old Police Station once stood? I have read that Mr. Collins would like to have that building at the North Wall of the Alamo used as a State of the Art Museum. Sure, keep and restore all the historical interiors of the building, and keep a small postal service within its walls for Alamo and San Antonio commemorative mailings, but Fill in the light well and include several lecture halls and a theater for Alamo related events and screenings. I think the reuse as a museum of the Crockett Palace and Woolworth buildings will not be large enough to house the Collins Collection and other Collections to come.
    Can the City of SA and the State of Texas secure ownership of this structure? Or can the US Federal Government become a partner in our Battle Field?
    San Antonio grew around The Alamo. We almost LOST it due to “Progress”. These stories are almost as important to share as the Battle story itself. The Crockett Block needs to remain intact and appropriate uses found for the spaces.
    We do not need to take the entire plaza down to the historical elevation of 1836. We can maybe take it down to that level to the east of the Cenotaph at about 100 yards west of the remaining walls of The Shrine.
    We do not need to emulate the Acequia, by our records IT was approximately 50 feet west of the Western wall. We have a very nice representation of a beautiful water fountian connecting Alamo Plaza with the River Walk which to me on all of these plans and drawings has been wiped out. Who paid for that? was the our Tax Money? or was that a gift of The Hyatt Corporation?
    It would be really nice to have no traffic in the area, I have been there many times with visiting family and friends when someone NOT paying attention almost gets run down by someone driving and showing off The Alamo in a drive by. Not Cool….. I am okay with closing off the streets, yet making sure Alamo Street is opened for our yearly city wide FIESTA Celebration. The Battle of Flowers Parade has been passing by and paying Homage to our Defenders for just about 120 years. The night parade pays no attention to the Shrine and could be moved to LaSoya. LaSoya can be transformed into a wider street, be it two way or one way south, making northbound traffic from South Alamo to go east on East Market and north on Bowie Street. Make Bowie Street one way North as it will connect with Houston and 3rd street west, and 4th street west to Broadway and the Freeways.
    The current plan also calls for glass or some clear material on the ground level showcasing the original foundations and locations of the original walls. WHY? the glass will be hotter than Hades in the heat of the sun. We also do not need glass railings, because to me, they will get taller and become easier to close the plaza at some point. The current material alterations on the sidewalk show where there walls once were, but there is NO SIGNAGE to tell people why the deviation of materials, or none that i have found.
    Trees, YES, to Trees, but trees that are native to Texas and placed in ways to help with the flow of the plaza and allowing for parades. Its all about the Parade.
    Now, the removal of the buildings between LaSoya Street and Alamo Street, north of Crockett, I am in agreement that the removal of these buildings would HELP in the opening up of Alamo Plaza and the recreation of the SouthWest Cannon display that so many would like to have built. Also the recreation of the original front Entry arch to The Mission would be nice as well to show some since of scale, but these two elements would not impede the flow of a Fiesta Parade.
    YES, the Native Peoples need a plaque, and maybe something for those mexican families who lost a loved one as well. But you cant please everyone.
    The Alamo is very important to Texas and to San Antonio.
    I believe my ideas mean something, well, to me they do!!! HA
    I bow to those more connected than I.

  8. I agree with John. CLOSE THE STREETS! Pedestrians, trees, shade will make for a more desirable environment than it Is now. Keeping it the way it Is is only going to reinforce what many often ask: is this all there is? It’s almost embarrassing. Also the federal building would be a GREAT place for a museum. A sidenote: Is having a yearly parade passing through there treating the site reverently? I think not.

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