Scott Ball / Rivard Report
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.
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.”