Lea Thompson / Rivard Report
The Alamo Master Plan Committee announced Thursday that Preservation Design Partnership, a Philadelphia-based firm, will lead the Alamo Plaza master planning process.
Since 2015, the committee has considered more than 200 design firms to lead the master planning process. Preservation Design brings more than 20 years of experience in the planning, design and construction of iconic historic and cultural projects like Independence Hall, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Virginia State Capitol.
George Skarmeas, a designer at the firm, and preservation planner Dominique Hawkins will also bring several years of experience in working with World Heritage sites. Both Skarmeas and Hawkins will relocate to San Antonio during the planning process, to oversee the preservation and restoration taking place at the Alamo.
“We are on really sacred ground,” said Gene Powell, an Alamo Endowment Board member. “Yet, when you come to this place, you have diesel buses running in the background, lots of noise, all kinds of business endeavors going on. It doesn’t feel like a respectful place.”
Though many local and state administrations have attempted to renovate and restore the historic site over the years, the recent combined efforts of City and state officials, as well as donations from the private sector through the Alamo Endowment, have raised about $31 million to fund the master planning process.
George P. Bush, Texas Land Commissioner, was in town Wednesday to discuss the Alamo’s recent renovations, which included $5 million in funds from the 84th Texas Legislature, to repair years of structural damage.
The 1836 Battle of the Alamo resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives, from both Alamo defenders and the Mexican army, and served as an important event in the fight for Texas independence. The mission was also home to many indigenous Texas tribes who worked, died and were buried on-site.
Preservation Design will work with Grupo de Diseño Urbano, an international design firm that is also working on the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, and Fisher Heck Inc., a San Antonio-based firm that has restored many historic buildings and contributed to restoration projects throughout the country.
“This is the dream team that we originally intended and originally talked about,” Powell told reporters during an afternoon press conference held outside the Alamo.
The teams will begin planning next week, and Alamo Committee members expect the plan to reach its 60% mark in November of this year, with the full Master Plan ready by spring 2017. Officials said that the process would require feedback from project stakeholders, including residents and nearby business owners. The project could possibly break ground in late 2017, Powell said, but he hopes the majority of construction will be completed by the City’s Tricentennial in 2018.
Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), a member of the Alamo Management Committee, said that the announcement marked the beginning of an historic revitalization plan.
“We’re off to a great start,” he said, because the City of San Antonio is invested in the project’s development and how it connects to the city and visitors.
The General Land Office purchased the historic buildings across from the Alamo – Crockett, Palace, and Woolworth’s – last year, with the aim to restore public reverence for the Alamo mission and Plaza area. Officials have yet to determine whether the buildings will be physically relocated to allow for a more accurate representation of the Battle of the Alamo.
“I think all options are on the table right now,” said Powell, adding that community organizations and individuals would be invited to voice their opinions throughout the process. “I don’t want to presuppose what the committee or the designers or preservations are going to come up with eventually.”
*Top Image: Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) thanks stakeholders for their support in the Alamo master planning process. Photo by Lea Thompson