Visitors line up in front of The Alamo in May 2015. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The Alamo and its plaza are the heart of the urban experience and culture in San Antonio, so restoring and master planning the Alamo is critical. However, enhancing the experience of visitors is not incompatible with the plaza as an urban, open space nor does that redefinition require the closure of Alamo Street. The urban character of the plaza does not prevent the necessity of security.

Recapturing the 1836 Battlefield, which was both inside and outside the walls, and the original plaza design is simply not possible given the urban environment surrounding the Alamo. Doing so is not necessary given the opportunities visitors have to visit the four other Spanish-colonial missions on the Mission Reach, which provide an immediate sense of the historic land use. The full story of the 1836 Battle, and more complex history of the missions, certainly can be fully articulated in the museum planned for the buildings across the plaza from the Alamo.

Master planners have suggested erecting walls to establish a perimeter around the plaza. Diminishing the urban character of the plaza in pursuit of a better experience for visitors ignores the rich history of the plaza itself as one of the most important gathering place for the citizens of San Antonio. 

A critical part of that urban experience is openness. From early morning to late at night, 24 hours a day, citizens who live in San Antonio can sit on a bench, have a conversation with friends, and experience the simple pleasure of walking around a historic site. We need not close the plaza to our citizens in order to provide security, ensure a revenue stream, or welcome the visitors to our City.

In developing the redesign for Alamo Plaza, an assumption was made: Alamo Street will be closed. That assumption needs to be reconsidered. The impact of closing the street will be great, as the development downtown and near downtown, is bringing not only more visitors but more citizens as residents – both use cars. The increased traffic can be routed to other streets, but there is not a convenient north-south alternative. We have yet to see in-depth traffic analysis about the impact that will have on the system of streets downtown. I have not heard any convincing points that would lead us to close the street.

This daytime rendering shows the pedestrian plaza that South Alamo Street (looking north) could become.
This daytime rendering shows the pedestrian plaza that South Alamo Street (looking north) could become. Credit: Courtesy / Texas General Land Office

Perhaps the street could be temporarily closed during non-peak traffic hours or when events are held at the plaza. A simple system of pop-up bollards would allow this flexible use of the street.  We have had a long and successful experience with closing Alamo Street in order to allow people to freely walk the street.

More consideration should be given to the large private investments in commercial and residential projects being made in the inner city, the very investments that will bring new vitality. How will the Alamo Master Plan impact those and future projects?

Alamo Plaza should remain part of the fabric of the great city of San Antonio.

Michael Berrier is a resident of the Lavaca neighborhood and longtime community activist.