Conservation Society, Others Launch ‘Don’t Wall Us Out’ Petition to ‘Save Alamo Plaza’

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Thousands attend the tree lighting ceremony at Alamo Plaza.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The holiday tree lighting ceremony is one of many events that brings thousands of visitors to the Alamo every year.

The San Antonio Conservation Society, with the help of a local architect and a neighborhood advocate, have created a paper-and-online petition to gather support for a plan to redevelop Alamo Plaza without “barriers” like closed streets, walls, railings, and gates as recently proposed by designers.

Click here to download a copy of the petition and here to view online.

David Lake, principal of Lake/Flato Architects, provided his own, alternative renderings of the proposal that carry his same “don’t wall us out” message that emerged from similar protests after the first round of renderings were released last year. The unofficial petition – via change.org and in-person signing – have no legal backing, but its authors (Lake, neighborhood advocate Michael Berrier, and two representatives of the Conservation Society) hope to deliver them and their message to the mayor and City Council before it considers the design proposals in August.

The first of four public input meetings in June took place Monday night on the West Side. More meetings will be scheduled for July.

The design team and other stakeholders say the plaza needs to be sectioned off for it to become an outdoor extension of the planned “world-class” museum. They also proposed three different versions of what that museum could look like, including utilizing all three state-owned existing historic buildings, demolishing some, or demolishing them all.

One of the main guiding principles of the multimillion-dollar public-private projects, as defined by a citizen committee, is to “embrace the continuum of history to foster understanding and healing.” However, disagreement lies in the interpretation of how to go about that and other vision and guiding principles.

Designers want to create a place of “reverence and learning,” which, they say, can’t be achieved with unfettered access to the plaza. Demolishing the buildings to restore the 1700s Mission San Antonio de Valero’s Plaza original footprint could add to this understanding.

But the Conservation Society and others cite the “continuum of history” phrase as cause to preserve the buildings and access.

“The plaza’s history did not start and stop with the Battle of 1836,” Lake said in an email to the Rivard Report. “A continuum is the continued legacy of how Alamo Plaza engages with our citizens and where history continues to be made. A continuum is the linkage of all San Antonians to this plaza. Public speech is our living history. Celebrations are our living history, whether it is the unveiling of a Christmas tree or the Battle of the Flowers Parade.”

By keeping the streets and plaza open, Lake said, the area can more fully honor the history that took place after the 1836 Battle of the Alamo.

“This is not about the Alamo,” the petition states. “This is about Alamo Plaza.”

In concert with the push to keep open access to Alamo Plaza, a group representing the interests of the Battle of Flowers Parade and the Fiesta Flambeau Parade have created their own petition to keep the parade routes in front of the Alamo. If the plaza were closed, the route would be diverted away from the historic landmark, which has been a staple of the parade atmosphere since the Battle of Flowers Parade began in 1891.

Conservation Society representatives could not be reached on Monday.

Reenacting historic battles, Berrier said, would hardly provide a sense of “healing.” 

“Davy Crockett shooting a gun in the air … there’s nothing reverential about that,” he said.

The design team came up with three “options” for the demolition, Berrier said, so why not come up with alternatives for the gated perimeter?

More investigation is required before decisions can be made about the historic buildings, Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said. Designers previously noted an independent study would be commissioned as part of the plan.

Treviño, one of two chairs of the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee and a member of the Alamo Management Committee, said it’s unlikely that other major components of the plan would change.

The design team “picked up where the master plan left off,” Treviño said. “Continuing the debate [about road closures and managed access], I don’t think that’s in line with the guiding principles.”

However, he said, pedestrian access, in general, is something on which the team is still working.

“[Designers] presented hard surfaces benches, trees, people walking,” Berrier said. “I can take 50 photos of that going on today. … The conflict is locking the thing up.”

12 thoughts on “Conservation Society, Others Launch ‘Don’t Wall Us Out’ Petition to ‘Save Alamo Plaza’

  1. Close the street. Vehicle traffic detracts from the plaza. I drove through today, behind a VIA bus and a Sysco delivery van. Cars, buses, and vans contribute only noise and exhaust fumes, but absolutely nothing of value, to Alamo Plaza. If we want to turn Alamo Plaza into something we can be proud of, the first step is to close the street. Whatever traffic inconvenience results (and traffic patterns will quickly adapt) is well worth the improvement to the plaza.

  2. The battle of 1836 is not the entire history no, but it is the exact reason of why we ‘Remember the Alamo!!’ in the first place lest you’ve already forgotten.

    and if David Lake had the project? Ready for rusted steel perforated panels and farm cage fencing re-interpreted as ceiling fans brutally intersecting a circulation path at a 45 degree angle? David Lake has his own way, so what?

    Mr. Lake has been my former boss, additionally I’ve twice house/dog sat for him, and I’ve helped him paint his guest house for a cheeseburger. He probably doesn’t remember me because this was all 8 years ago as a nobody intern but I’m not just saying the following about someone without never having known them except for behind a keyboard.

    Its not your project. You have had great success in your career. Why are you doing this to others? Just because they aren’t from here? Just because you disagree? So you don’t like the design, okay. I have disliked several of your designs but I’ll never start a public petition to end or drastically change your projects. You think because your the big dog in town that gives you the right to draw over someone else’s drawings? Or even worse, get someone who works for you to do it thus implicating their integrity as well? So you deal in sabotage now? This whole city isn’t your firm. These projects aren’t from your interns to just red line. No one submitted this to you for your approval. That might be hard for you to believe at this point in your career. No one needs you to sign off this time.

    Taking someone else’s work and drawing over it yourself to push your own agenda forward is the least professional and the lowest thing you can do to another architect. It is the most disrespectful towards them you can be. It is beyond arrogant. Commentary is one thing. Taking the actual document and marking it up I won’t be silent for that. I would want someone to speak up for me so regardless if this hurts me I’m gonna speak up for them now. The most ironic part is that I agree with you about the enclosure…but this culture of ruining other people’s work has to stop. Feels like a very small town around here.

    I have a signed copy of your first book from when I was in college from 2007 and in it you wrote (to me), “welcome to our profession”. Is this what our profession looks like? Is this what we do? No thank you.

    I absolutely can’t take it when one person takes their skill set and uses it to get political and harm a fellow person in the same field. Does the Rivard Report make hit piece articles on fellow news sites and how they do their jobs? Do they blatantly rewrite other people’s articles the ‘right’ way?

    I don’t have respect or a great reputation in this town like you do and I’ll probably always remain that way, but one thing I’m not ever going to do is take your renderings, sketches, or designs and mark it up in order to get people to think like me. If someone disagrees I can handle it. What I can’t handle is that someone spent weeks, nights, and sacrificed to create these beautiful renderings and you just take all of your authority and clout to mark it up and sum it up how you see it and get everyone to go along because you pull such weight.

    I don’t care if the design does suck, I care that we as architects act like we have a shred of integrity and respect towards each other’s work. You go all over the world and land designs in major cities where I’m sure the big fish in those ponds were frustrated by this outsider coming in and dictating design in their city. It’s not like Lake Flato keeps their work local. Your world renown for a reason. That doesn’t make you free to ruin other people’s sense of quality just because they dare to design a major project 1 block from your office.

    • Lake Flato has been one block from the Alamo for 28 years

      I only care about our cities future and the ability to craft a dynamic downtown.

      I also am a developer of the Maverick apartments,1221 apartments ,and the Hemisfair Lofts …as well as the Exchange lifts on the river .

      I have for over 30 years collaborated with other architects and developers and the city on 2 city master plans and the River North master plan .
      Lake Flato led a team to master plan the Pearl Brewery.

      Many of these efforts have been pro bono .Lake Flato is committed to making San Antonio a better place .

      Respectfully

      David

      • But is Richard correct, in that architects should not take another’s work and mark it up, and instead create from scratch their own design, David? Does what you did, according to Richard, violate an architect’s code of ethics?

  3. The Alamo has a history before and after that battle.
    I don’t see enough being said about the pre-battle indigenous people.
    And post-battle the mission was integrated into San Antonio’s commercial and social life. Destroying antique buildings that have watched over the Alamo for the past century is an abomination!
    Walling the plaza off from current city life is sterile, not a way to honor a living area.
    Ignoring citizen input is no way to promote “healing”!
    And I can just imagine how well some modern museum will relate to the antique building stones of the Alamo.

  4. From its earliest days, the grounds of Alamo Plaza has symbolized independence, freedom, autonomy, sovereignty, self-government, self-rule and self-determination. It’s history has been evolutionary, not exclusionary. In this place, we have witnessed rebellion and celebration, structures crafted by our ancestors to conduct commerce and comfort visitors, and epitaphs to honor those whose lives have given our own greater meaning. The plans to significantly change how we experience this venerable site are an affront to the people and character of San Antonio. Alamo Plaza is NOT a facade of San Antonio and Texas culture, but rather, its heart and soul. You CANNOT demolish what history has gracefully bestowed over time and recreate some authoritarian, bureaucratically-conceived, Disneyland version. We must retain the architectural character of the Plaza by preserving and utilizing truly historic buildings rather than bulldozing them to build new buildings to house artifacts of history. (Oximoron concept! Great cities do not destroy history to create history museums, they make use of them, i.e., The Louvre, Paris; The British Museum, London; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, etc.) We must retain the public access to the Plaza for local residents and visitors rather than fence off a ‘new’ theme park experience. This is OUR history and not a pet project that will not stand the test of time nor acceptance.

    • – No Disneyland version of Alamo Plaza and do away with the walls; walls certainly do convey Welcome or Freedom.
      – No reenactment of any kind on Alamo Plaza; the battle is over I can never understand why people want to be reminded of people killing people. Let us think about the peaceful times before the battle. How about acting out how different cultures lived before the Alamo Battle. I remember visiting (in another state) a historic place and they had real live people demonstrating what it was like to be living in the 1800’s and it was very enjoyable and educational. It was so real and they even sold the products they were making, it felt like you stepped back in time.
      – Roads closures – Has anyone ever been in an auto accident driving through Alamo Plaza?
      – How about an auto passage limited to autos and bikers only, in other words, no commercial trucks, and buses. Slower speed limit monitored by an automated “send a ticket fine” at a high cost. It will allow people with cars the options to drive through Alamo Plaza knowing they will be fined if they speed, and that this street zone would not be a shortcut to their destination.
      -And pedestrians be monitored as well because they seem to think they can just dart out – give them tickets and have them pay on the spot. Hirer Alamo Plaza Park Officers. Pay now or blah, blah, blah, I am not any kind of legal person put you get the point.
      – we need to think in terms of an open park and keeping in the tradition of what “We The People Of San Antonio” are familiar with a friendly environment for everyone; where we all can play together and not be bullied against a wall.

    • Whose freedom, autonomy, sovereignty, etc., are you referring to? Certainly not the African American slaves, Native Americans and Mexican Americans. The Alamo story is a myth created to justify the domination and cultural hegemony of southern whites in this part of the world.

  5. As I’ve mentioned before on another posting, I grew up with the Battle of Alamo being used to put down our Mexican heritage and I favored an “Olvídate del Alamo!” (Forget the Alamo!) strategy. As an academic, I have discovered the demographic and economic forces that brought Anglo Americans into Mexican Texas, and in that light, the battle, the history before that, the inevitable Texas secession from Mexico, and our city development since now seem so rich.

    Just how to explain all that is not an easy task. Doing something about the current nothing-experience related to the church and the barracks is not easy task. But if you want the famous battle to be revered and particularly if you want the before-and-after of our city’s history to be remember, something has be done with Alamo Plaza!

    On a flight back to San Antonio, I listened a young man advise another person what to see in our city and all he talked about from the DFW to SAT was the RiverWalk. Not a word about the Alamo. This was apparently an Anglo American young man and he had de facto accepted “Olvídate del Alamo!”

    Don’t do anything and the Alamo will continue to be ignored.

    Create a new environment — close the streets, clear the space (remove the cenotaph) to make room for people, re-consecrate the grounds of buried Native Americans and the fallen defenders and the Mexican soldiers, build a museum for the history of the City of San Antonio — and you will make the relatively few Alamo remnants a “Wow!” experience.

    No one comes away forgetting the Missionary-led Indian Town of San José. There is space for people, there is history, there is life today.

    Do nothing and visitors will leave forgetting the Alamo…….and talking about the RiverWalk. Way to go, San Antonians!

  6. Councilman Trevino’s comment “Continuing the debate [about road closures and managed access], I don’t think that’s in line with the guiding principles.” does not make sense! One of the guiding principles is to “Enhance connectivity and wayfinding to the river, neighborhoods, LaVillita, the cathedral, and the other Plazas” The debate should continue as “managed access” is NOT one of the guiding principles but “enhance connectivity” is. Councilman Trevino, is the fix already in? Are the public debates just for show? Have you already decided that managed access and road closures are a done deal? I hope the answer is a resounding “NO!!!” There is still room for compromise and better ideas which may be married to the ones currently presented by this design team. I would say the guiding principle of “Embrace the continuum of history to foster understanding and healing” should also be considered, debate allowed to continue and sound ideas seriously embraced and incorporated into the present designs. Please listen to the citizens who believe in a civil discourse and the right to debate!

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