Eric Kramer, Reed Hilderbrand principal and partner, briefs the Rivard Report on the revised master plan on June 6, 2018. Reed Hilderbrand was not present at the private meeting Wednesday. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

A group of developers critical of the design elements proposed for the multi-million-dollar Alamo Plaza redevelopment scheduled a private meeting Wednesday in an effort to discuss alternative designs with the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee.

However, efforts to have their voices heard likely were thwarted thanks to an email by Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) that said the gathering was not “approved by the Management Committee.”

Only three of developer Phillip Bakke’s colleagues on the 21-member Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee showed up to the meeting at Casa Rio, a restaurant on the River Walk. Bakke, who organized the meeting, and David Lake of Lake/Flato Architects have been vocal about their unhappiness with the proposed Alamo Plaza designs. Both prefer a plan that keeps public, easy access to Alamo Plaza and most of the nearby streets open.

During one of four public meetings regarding the plan this month, a woman asked Bakke about his “plan” for the Alamo.

“I don’t have a plan,” Bakke recalled saying to the woman. “But I told her I would talk to the folks that have different ideas.”

Bakke said the Casa Rio meeting originally was an attempt to get the committee members to get to know each other. Then it became a way to make good on what he told the public.

Treviño, who co-chairs the advisory committee and sits on the Management Committee that oversees it, sent an email out on Wednesday afternoon notifying members but said it was not intended to deter attendance, but rather to answer questions he had been receiving about it from committee members. Treviño said his attitude toward those inquiries was “you go if you want. This is not our meeting.”

“They have the right to meet, to talk about this, to do all those things,” Treviño told the Rivard Report on Thursday, “but what I wanted to clear up is that this [was] not a meeting that was staffed or sanctioned by the management committee.”

It’s unclear if all the committee members were invited. Treviño said he was not and neither was the design team comprised of firms Reed Hilderbrand, PGAV Destinations, and Cultural Innovations.

At the meeting, Bakke invited David Lake of Lake/Flato Architects, Irby Hightower of Alamo Architects, Bill Shown of Silver Ventures, and Madison Smith of Overland Partners to “share their ideas on how we can bring consensus and compromise to the existing masterplan draft,” Bakke said in a letter sent to Treviño on Thursday.

Bakke praised the work they have done for the community.

“The architect of record, as selected by the Alamo Management Committee, is Reed-Hildebrand and the role of the citizen’s advisory committee is to provide feedback and input on the work of the Alamo Management Committee and not of third parties,” Treviño stated in his Wednesday email. “The Alamo Management Committee just hosted a series of public meetings and collected input from hundreds of citizens, which will be presented to you on July 10.”

The project has a team of architects hired to take feedback and direction, Treviño told the Rivard Report. They have heard the feedback about keeping the streets and plaza open, he said, and “just because somebody doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean they are not listening to you.”

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) and Patricia Mejia answer questions that the audience texted in regarding the interpretive plan.
Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) and Patricia Mejia answer questions that the audience texted in regarding the interpretive plan on June 20, 2018. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Bakke said it’s not about hiring new architects. The concern is that alternatives aren’t being fully considered by the advisory committee or the Management Committee.

“These aren’t third party folks … they are our fellow citizens and they should have every right to be heard,” Bakke said. “In defense of Councilman Treviño, I know his heart is in the right place.

“And it’s incredibly hard to get everyone on the same page of music. Especially when it comes to the Alamo.”

It’s unlikely that an official meeting will be held for the advisory committee to hear the group’s counterproposals, Treviño said.

“I have to also respect my fellow Management Committee members [who would have a say in that],” he said. “I think it’s improbable. What they’re asking is not fair to the process.”

The Alamo Master Plan’s Executive Committee – comprised of Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Land Commissioner George P. Bush – would need to approve of any proposed plan. City Council also would need to approve street closures if the plan is to proceed as proposed.

Nirenberg declined to comment for this article.

The Management Committee is comprised of two representatives each from the City of San Antonio, Texas General Land Office, and the Alamo Endowment, and was formed as part of an agreement between the entities to jointly fund and plan the redevelopment of the Alamo complex, plaza, and surrounding downtown district.

“[The] Mayor and City Manager encouraged us to engage with the citizens’ committee,” Lake told the Rivard Report. “We were only doing what engaged citizens should do and that is to have our concerns heard.”

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org