Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Two City commissions will hear presentations and vote on several elements that would allow a major redevelopment of the Alamo and its plaza during a rare joint meeting on Oct. 10, officials said Wednesday.
The Planning Commission will vote on the proposed South Alamo Street closure and its partial conveyance to the State in addition to a master lease agreement for the plaza. The Historic and Design Review Commission will vote on the general plan design and relocation of the Alamo Cenotaph. City Council will have the final say on the street closure and master lease – that vote has tentatively been set for Oct. 18.
There will be an opportunity for public comment during the meeting, which will start at 5:30 p.m. in the board room of the City’s Development Services Department building at 1901 S. Alamo St.
Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who sits on several committees related to the redevelopment process, said he expects City Council will be briefed on the plan on Oct. 10. When Council votes is up to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and City Manager Sheryl Sculley.
Combined meetings like this are uncommon, Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said, but not unheard of – Planning and Zoning commissions have conducted meetings in this manner before.
In this case, the street closure needs to be approved before the design (the Planning Commission will vote first), Houston said, so it makes sense to combine the meetings and votes. This way, she added, both groups of commissioners can “benefit from comments” regarding the plans.
Treviño and Houston delivered a presentation about the multimillion-dollar plan to Planning Commission members Wednesday afternoon.
The street closure and Cenotaph relocation have been the two most controversial changes proposed. Both intend to bring a sense of reverence and historical context to the Alamo mission and 1836 battlefield, which is currently located among non-historic, commercial tourist attractions such as wax and oddity museums. Several protests have been held in favor of keeping the Cenotaph in place out of respect for those who died defending the Alamo, which was then a military outpost, from the Mexican army during the Texas Revolution.
Designers also propose managing access to the historic footprint of the plaza through the proposed museum to prevent street vendors, preachers, and protesters from gathering the front of the iconic church.
“This is only one of the most transformative projects downtown, if not the most transformative,” said Treviño, whose district includes downtown and several urban core neighborhoods. The plan’s goal is to “tell a complete story at the Alamo … a lot of people don’t understand that it was once a mission.”
Visitors often make a beeline for the Alamo mission without realizing that they’re “standing on a battlefield,” Houston added.
Planning commissioners asked how the plan would impact traffic and the three state-owned historic buildings located just west of the Alamo. If approved, Losoya Street, which runs parallel to Alamo Street to the west, would become a two-way street. Losoya currently serves only southbound traffic and is a hub for service delivery vehicles dropping of goods for surrounding hotels, restaurants, and bars. Before Alamo Street is closed, a plan will be developed to streamline that function, said Gene Dawson, president of Pape-Dawson Engineers. Dawson’s firm performed a downtown-wide traffic study that showed the area streets could survive the Alamo plan’s street closures.
The design of the proposed Alamo museum and fate of three historic buildings where the museum would be located will be up to the Texas Historical Commission, Treviño said. The specifics – how the buildings would be demolished, preserved, or renovated – is pending an in-depth study of their structures and cultural values and separate design process led by a collaboration between the State, City, and Alamo Endowment.
The final lease and management agreements, which are still being negotiated, are slated for a Council vote at the same time as the street closure on Oct. 18. Alamo Plaza designers would have to come before HDRC again for final approval.