The Alameda Theater Conservancy announced Thursday that renovations to the historic theater are being put on hold. 

Because of the pandemic, a capital campaign with the goal to raise $10 million for the historic restoration project came up short. The project, initially expected to be completed in the spring of 2021, has been delayed indefinitely. 

“Because we are renovating a culturally significant and historic building, the design, construction, and amenity standards cannot be compromised,” stated Pete Cortez, a member of the Conservancy’s board of directors. “The San Antonio community deserves a beautifully restored Alameda Theater, and we are committed to returning it to its rightful place as the most prominent Latino performing arts theater in America.”

Built in 1949, the Alameda Theater was once the largest theater for Spanish-language performing arts in the United States. The theater closed in the late 1980s. 

The City purchased the Alameda in 1994, and in 2017, entered into an agreement with Bexar County to provide a combined $18 million toward its restoration. Texas Public Radio, which moved its headquarters into the stage house behind the theater in February 2020, committed to raising another $5 million. The remainder would be covered by historic tax credits, said Lori Houston, assistant city manager, at the time.

The first phase of construction at the theater began in early 2020, only weeks before the coronavirus pandemic created a public health emergency and ensuing economic crisis. 

“There are thousands of people in this community with immediate, basic needs, and we understand that is where local charitable giving needed to be focused,” Cortez stated.

The work that began last year focused on correcting environmental risks and connecting to utilities while Houston Street was closed for the adjacent San Pedro Creek project. Contractor Guido Construction will also complete “critical construction” in the stage house, auditorium, and balcony structures.

That work will continue through April, but most of the planned renovations are being temporarily delayed. 

When design plans were approved by the Historic and Design Review Commission in October 2019, plans called for an extensive interior facelift, including rehabilitating the decorative finishes in the lobby and on the stairs, expanding the theater box office, and restoring paint. The theater would have seating for approximately 1,000.

In a statement, the Conservancy said it plans to study potential facility improvements to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 or other viruses. 

“This gives us a chance to make important safety improvements that few thought necessary until now,” stated Cortez.

Shari Biediger

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