The Historic and Design Review Commission approved final designs for the Alamo Colleges administrative complex Wednesday, which will be located at 2222 N. Alamo St. The project is slated for completion in November or December of 2018.
The property sits on the former site of the historic Playland Park, which opened in 1943 and closed in 1980. In 2008, after decades of vacancy, Alamo Colleges purchased the plot for $4.1 million to build its headquarters complex. Alamo Colleges officials have said they plan to incorporate a collection of artifacts from Playland Park into the campus design.
“This was a long, ongoing process,” Alamo Colleges Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities Operation and Construction Management John Strybos said. “We looked at a variety of locations around the county and this one is centrally located, has good access to the freeways, and it has VIA bus service so there’s easy access to it.”
San Antonio firms ford, powell & carson (FPC), WestEast Design Group, and landscape architects Rialto Studio spearheaded the design of the new headquarters campus. The facility will include two connected administrative buildings where more than 450 district employees will work, a two-story parking structure along Josephine Street, and two surface parking lots.
“Right now Alamo Colleges administration is truly spread out all over the county,” Strybos said. “This puts all of us in one place at one time. It will improve communications and our services.”
The 12.5-acre parcel of land also will highlight the Alamo’s Acequia Madre, a water source that flows through the Witte Museum, parallel to Broadway Street, through the new site, and then south to the Alamo.
“Through archaeological digs we found the natural route of the acequia, and so we have pulled a part of the building apart so that it flows through a little plaza,” said John Mize, principal at ford, powell & carson. “We will articulate it on site with river rock which will trace the alignment, and we’ll have an interpretive program that talks about its history and the importance to San Antonio.”
In addition to safeguarding the acequia, more than 60% of the property will remain undeveloped at the request of Alamo Colleges Citizens Advisory Committee members, Alamo Colleges trustees, and surrounding residents after architects and officials hosted a public meeting and site visit. It also will preserve a grove of heritage pecan trees on the property’s northwest corner.
Strybos told the Rivard Report Wednesday that one of Alamo Colleges’ longtime trustees, James A. Rindfuss (D9), passed away Tuesday night due to a medical condition. Strybos declined to provide more details.
“On behalf of the Board and Marie Rindfuss, I am saddened to inform you that Jim Rindfuss passed last night,” Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie and Board Chair Yvonne Katz stated in an email to personnel. “Jim has served honorably, enthusiastically, and with distinction as a trustee of The Alamo Colleges District since 1996.
“He was instrumental in emphasizing student success and leadership and was always an advocate for affordable tuition and instructional materials, championing open source materials. As a result, this year across the colleges, students have saved over $15 million dollars through open source materials alone.”
Details for a memorial service are pending.
Commissioners also approved the construction of an additional parking lot for H-E-B’s downtown headquarters. The surface parking lot will be bound by East Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard to the south, South Flores to the west, Old Guilbeau Street to the north, and South Main Street to the east.
“It’s part of our master plan in the construction of our headquarters,” H-E-B spokeswoman Dya Campos told the Rivard Report. “It will be employee parking for right now as we go forward and continue to work on the master plan. Our neighbors are proud of what we have created.”
King William Association Executive Director Cherise Bell signed up to speak before commissioners gave the project approval. She said the parking lot conflicts with the City’s adopted comprehensive plan, as well as commitments provided to the neighborhood during a previous discussion.
“The site plan indicates it’s for private use only and does not indicate any parking space for bike users … [or] the existing bus stop on Cesar Chavez on the southwest corner,” Bell said. “We hope this parking lot is a temporary solution until structured parking, which was previously suggested, will be built to the south. We recommend that H-E-B work with VIA and [the City] to include required ADA access, passenger waiting and loading, and bicycle accommodations.”
HDRC Chair Michael Guarino, who is a designer at ford, powell & carson, recused himself from both the Alamo Colleges and the H-E-B parking lot votes.