A preliminary rendering of the Texas Public Radio headquarters to be located on the South side of the Alameda Theater.
A preliminary rendering shows the Texas Public Radio headquarters, to be located on West Commerce Street. Credit: Courtesy / Overland Partners - Martinez + Johnson Architecture

Architects have released preliminary renderings for the more than $23 million renovation of the historic but long-vacant Alameda Theater on West Houston Street.

Though the designs do not yet reflect changes made to the entertainment plaza of the San Pedro Creek project that runs alongside the Alameda, the renderings show a resurrected theater and reimagined city block in downtown San Antonio.

Architecture firms Overland Partners and Martinez + Johnson Architecture are partnering on the Alameda project and shared their renderings with the Rivard Report.

Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said in an email that an architectural firm has not yet been engaged for the final design, but that the preliminary renderings establish the overall design vision and concept.

“This is the first step in the conceptual design process, and the next step in the process will be to evaluate the study generated by the assessment, and then to announce the architectural firm that has been engaged for the full design,” Houston stated.

The City of San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas Public RadioLa Familia Cortez, and a host of community partners plan to turn the remodeled Alameda into a venue for cultural programming and new headquarters for the nonprofit radio station.

Two floors will be added to the non-historic backstage structure for TPR’s studio and administrative offices, and at least one broadcast booth will be visible from the adjacent San Pedro Creek Culture Park. Located on the western edge of downtown San Antonio, the first segment of the San Pedro Creek project’s first phase will open to the public on May 5.

A preliminary rendering of the Alameda Theater which sits along the San Pedro Creek Culture Park.
A preliminary rendering shows the Alameda Theater which sits along the San Pedro Creek Culture Park. Credit: Courtesy / Overland Partners – Martinez + Johnson Architecture

Construction on the TPR office space will begin this summer, with work on the theater anticipated to start in early 2019.

“The Alameda Theater Conservancy [ATC] has worked closely with TPR over the past several months during the planning stages of the project to ensure the TPR office space would remain on the accelerated schedule so their new headquarters can be ready by late 2019,” Houston stated.

Other restoration plans for the Alameda call for updates to both the interior and exterior of the existing historic structure, restoration of art murals inside, redesign of the theater space to include 1,000 removable seats and a tiered floor design, acoustic upgrades, and other theater amenities. The Alameda will also get upgrades to its heating and cooling systems, electrical power and lighting, restrooms and plumbing, and to meet accessibility standards.

The project will cost between $23 million and $26 million, Houston said. The final project budget will depend on the scope of the theater space and historic tax credit allocation.

About $5 million could be gleaned from state and federal historic renovation tax credits. TPR will raise $5 million for the project, and has been quietly fundraising toward that goal, said Robert Salluce, vice president of marketing and communications for TPR. The remaining $16 million could come from the City and County tax reinvestment zone on Houston Street. ATC will also seek philanthropic dollars, but has not yet begun fundraising.

“We will launch our campaign once the theater space has a more finalized design and construction estimate,” according to Houston, who serves on the ATC board along with Joyce Slocum, TPR’s president and CEO. “As of right now, ATC anticipates launching our fundraising campaign in the fall.”

The Cinema Treasures website calls the Alameda “one of the last grand movies palaces built in America.” It opened March 9, 1949, as the largest movie palace ever dedicated to Spanish-language films and the performing arts. Housed within the historic International Building, the theater was  built as a symbol of greater cultural understanding and Pan-American relations.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.