Ahead of unanimous approval to provide funding for the Alameda Theater restoration project on Tuesday, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff noted how many years the project has been underway.

“This is probably the longest restoration project in the history of Bexar County,” he said. “I was mayor in 1994 when we bought it.”

Bexar County commissioners approved $7 million for the Alameda Theater renovation project at a Tuesday meeting, as well as another $26.5 million for the ongoing construction of San Pedro Creek Culture Park.

The Alameda Theater was built in 1949 and served as a prominent Mexican American entertainment venue before it closed in the 1980s. The city-owned property on West Houston Street started undergoing renovations in early 2020, but a lack of funding and the coronavirus pandemic stalled the project.

San Antonio City Council members allocated $7.4 million for the Alameda Theater project early in November.

While the last phase of construction requires $27 million, the city and county’s combined $14.4 million helps get the project to the finish line. The Alameda Theater Conservancy can seek a loan to cover the remainder and pursue state and federal historic tax credits for future reimbursement.

Because the Alameda Theater would like to be eligible for those historic tax credits, certain parts of the theater must remain untouched, county venues manager Tony Cañez said. While they had previously floated the idea of a mural designed by a local artist on one of the walls, that can no longer happen.

“The wall remains as original as possible,” Cañez said.

The Alameda Theater shares space with Texas Public Radio, which contributed $5 million to build its offices. The Alameda’s stagehouse, which sits behind the actual performing stage, shares a wall with TPR and was completed in 2014 with $7 million from the county and $8.3 million from the city, said Trey Jacobson, a consultant working on the project. Bexar County committed another $9 million to the Alameda Theater project after that.

Construction on the Alameda Theater should be completed by 2023.

County commissioners also OK’d $26.5 million for Phase 3 and Phase 4.1 of design and construction of San Pedro Creek Culture Park on Tuesday; the bulk of that funding comes from federal reimbursements the county received from building Mission Reach

Phase 3, which starts at Guadalupe Street and runs past South Alamo Street, has completed its design and is ready to begin construction, said Christine Clayton, an engineer with the San Antonio River Authority (SARA). The first segment of Phase 4 still needs a final design, which SARA anticipates will be completed next February. Both Phase 3 and Phase 4.1 should begin construction next April, Clayton said.

Commissioners also heard an update on planned public art along San Pedro Creek Culture Park, including a five-panel mural from artists and spouses Kathy and Lionel Sosa, located between Commerce and Dolorosa Streets. The first panel, which begins the story of the creek and has the words “Foundation” and “Fundación” framing the edges, features a woman and tree painted in gold, representing the indigenous people who were first in Bexar County.

“We’ve made some significant alterations to the concept based on [community] input,” Kathy Sosa said. “We’re really excited about the opportunity to tell this story in our symbolic, iconographic kind of way.”

The rest of the panels follow the Sosas’ “Tree of Life” concept, presented to commissioners when the local artists were selected in July. 

The first panel has already been painted, and now will be scanned to be printed on ceramic tiles, said Carrie Brown, public art curator for San Pedro Creek Culture Park. The mural should be fully completed by May 2022. Interested people can follow the mural’s progress on the river authority’s “Works in Progress” page.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.