Lea Thompson / Rivard Report
As both a representative of the City of San Antonio on the Alamo Management Committee and a tri-chair of the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee, my top priorities have consistently been public transparency and ensuring the entire story of the Alamo site is told.
Much like the effort to be inclusive of our community with the Brackenridge Park Masterplan, we are encouraging robust public engagement and earnest discussion. Rest assured there is not a hard and fast deadline for this effort. Rather, there is a concerted effort to be methodical and comprehensive. We have a golden opportunity to get this right, and we will not allow it to be tarnished by a lack of transparency or public engagement.
The Citizens Advisory Committee is charged with providing input to the Alamo Master Plan process. We first gathered in 2014 in lengthy sessions to develop a vision, guiding principles and several themes based upon the work of the 1994 interpretive plan.
Today, we continue to be intimately involved in the Alamo Master Plan work being undertaken by the partnership of the Texas General Land Office, The Alamo Endowment, and the City of San Antonio. Adherence to the citizens’ guiding principles has been, and should remain, paramount.
Over the last three-and-a-half years, the center city has witnessed an explosion of development – some of it controversial. Our residents’ voices were not always accounted for while projects unfitting to our neighborhoods were constructed. As a witness to these circumstances, I vowed to do everything possible to bring our neighborhoods to the table moving forward. Together, we are strengthening the lines of communication to the community and closing the gaps that allowed the issues in the first place.
The model of including our residents in the process, rather than simply informing them, is central to the most recent mission of the Alamo. Our community will be boldly involved as a partner, not simply a witness. We will prove that public input is not merely an option for progress in our city – it is a prerequisite.
There are many differing memories of the Alamo, and the diversity of San Antonio’s past will inspire our future. The Alamo belongs to all San Antonians – and all Texans for that matter. A critical component of the plan has been asking for and receiving a wide variety of thoughts and opinions from all over Texas on how to enhance the Alamo experience. Make no mistake, those thoughts and opinions have been constructive and full of passion, albeit sometimes conflicting.
That’s why a thorough and rigorous request for proposals process was established to select a team of seasoned experts to lead the interpretive plan. That team of St. Louis-based design firm PGAV Destinations, London-based museum and heritage consultants Cultural Innovations, and Cambridge, Massachusetts-based landscape architecture firm Reed Hilderbrand is responsible for thoughtfully considering all of those ideas, and engaging our community while honoring the site’s history.
Design is as much a process as it is an outcome. As we move methodically through this process, we must continuously ask ourselves what the interpretative design should include. Some of the most significant questions that guide us have been:
- How do we honor all peoples and cultures integral to the story?
- What do we want the visitor or resident to learn about the site?
- How should they feel?
- The 1836 battle is historically significant, the interpretive plan cannot be exclusive to this much-storied and documented battle. How exactly do we tell all of the stories that need to be told?
We must foster our community’s role through engaged urban citizenship. To this point, the Citizen’s Advisory Committee has been the community’s representative voice by creating the vision and guiding principles. The management committee has taken previous comments and continues to work with the design team to ensure the citizens committee will have input on this phase of the project. Through thoughtful due process, our team is delivering a draft that will be designed to meet or exceed expectations for this most unique urban space. The draft of the plan will then be represented to the public for further consideration and comments.
Stakeholder input has guided our progress to date, and the next step is on the horizon, slated to begin this June. A series of meetings will be held in every quadrant of the city to unveil the plans, answer questions, and request feedback. That very feedback may mean the plans get altered as we work toward an approved design that reflects the community’s passion for an authentic, informative, entertaining, and complete Alamo experience.
My hope is that the design plan is presented to City Council for a vote in early Fall with clear direction, intention, and collective agency. Together, we will take the time necessary to honor the Alamo in a way that is truly transformational. We will create a public space that can speak to this iconic site’s layered history, and most importantly, a place that will continue to be fully embraced by our community.