History, Education, and Access can Coexist at Alamo Plaza

Print Share on LinkedIn Comments More

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Visitors line up in front of The Alamo in May 2015.

The Alamo and its plaza are the heart of the urban experience and culture in San Antonio, so restoring and master planning the Alamo is critical. However, enhancing the experience of visitors is not incompatible with the plaza as an urban, open space nor does that redefinition require the closure of Alamo Street. The urban character of the plaza does not prevent the necessity of security.

Recapturing the 1836 Battlefield, which was both inside and outside the walls, and the original plaza design is simply not possible given the urban environment surrounding the Alamo. Doing so is not necessary given the opportunities visitors have to visit the four other Spanish-colonial missions on the Mission Reach, which provide an immediate sense of the historic land use. The full story of the 1836 Battle, and more complex history of the missions, certainly can be fully articulated in the museum planned for the buildings across the plaza from the Alamo.

Master planners have suggested erecting walls to establish a perimeter around the plaza. Diminishing the urban character of the plaza in pursuit of a better experience for visitors ignores the rich history of the plaza itself as one of the most important gathering place for the citizens of San Antonio. 

A critical part of that urban experience is openness. From early morning to late at night, 24 hours a day, citizens who live in San Antonio can sit on a bench, have a conversation with friends, and experience the simple pleasure of walking around a historic site. We need not close the plaza to our citizens in order to provide security, ensure a revenue stream, or welcome the visitors to our City.

In developing the redesign for Alamo Plaza, an assumption was made: Alamo Street will be closed. That assumption needs to be reconsidered. The impact of closing the street will be great, as the development downtown and near downtown, is bringing not only more visitors but more citizens as residents – both use cars. The increased traffic can be routed to other streets, but there is not a convenient north-south alternative. We have yet to see in-depth traffic analysis about the impact that will have on the system of streets downtown. I have not heard any convincing points that would lead us to close the street.

This daytime rendering shows the pedestrian plaza that South Alamo Street (looking north) could become.

Courtesy / Texas General Land Office

This daytime rendering shows the pedestrian plaza that South Alamo Street (looking north) could become.

Perhaps the street could be temporarily closed during non-peak traffic hours or when events are held at the plaza. A simple system of pop-up bollards would allow this flexible use of the street.  We have had a long and successful experience with closing Alamo Street in order to allow people to freely walk the street.

More consideration should be given to the large private investments in commercial and residential projects being made in the inner city, the very investments that will bring new vitality. How will the Alamo Master Plan impact those and future projects?

Alamo Plaza should remain part of the fabric of the great city of San Antonio.

3 thoughts on “History, Education, and Access can Coexist at Alamo Plaza

  1. The worlds great plazas are open and accessible

    Plaza de rotondo in Rome is vibrant and active.Traffic and pedestrians and bikes flow through and around the Pantheon.

    2000 years old , the Pantheon is a roman wonder of the world which anchors the plaza and is open and welcoming to all.

    I agreee with Mr Berrier.

    Adhere to the Alamo Plaza guidelines that state,”Alamo Plaza should continue to be THE COMMUNITY gathering place”.

    Make the city stronger by planning the new Broadway and the new Alamo Plaza as a singular linkage drawing Southtown and the Broadway corridor together .

  2. The worlds great plazas are open and accessible

    Plaza de rotondo in Rome is vibrant and active.

    2000 years old , the Pantheon is a roman wonder of the world which anchors the plaza and is open and welcoming to all.

    I agreee with Mr Berrier.

    Adhere to the Alamo Plaza guidelines that state,”Alamo Plaza should continue to be THE COMMUNITY gathering place”.

    Make the city stronger by planning the new Broadway and the new Alamo Plaza as a singular linkage drawing Southtown and the Broadway corridor together .

  3. I’ve worried about both the closing of Alamo Street and the building of the wall. As stated here, it would be easy to rebuild the street so that it remains but seems to become part of the plaza when closed off for events. As for the wall, I’ve suggested all along two alternatives: 1) A linear fountain that becomes active for a few minutes (2?) maybe every hour or half hour which can give people a temporary impression of the boundaries. 2) Lights beaming up which would draw people there in the evenings to see the outline of the boundaries. In both cases, the people wanting to show the walls would get that and the people who want an open plaza would get that. Plus, kids (and some adults) would love jumping through the water wall in the heat, or almost everyone would enjoy walking through the light wall. Build a permanent portal where the original gate was so people can see it, but leave it open and have no barrier walls attached–just an open portal that can be walked through along with a water wall or a light wall (or both) to show the main entrance and the original wall locations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *