(From left) Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
(From left) Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff Credit: Bonnie Arbittier and Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, and City Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) are urging Alamo Master Plan designers to remove controversial fences, gates, and other pedestrian obstructions from their development proposals.

We oppose any type of barrier that that would limit access to Plaza at any time, other than for special events,” the three elected officials wrote in a joint opinion piece published online late Friday night.

They also are opposed to demolishing some or all of the historic buildings to make way for a new Alamo museum.

Two sets of design consultants – hired through an agreement between the City of San Antonio, Texas General Land Office, and Alamo Endowment to plan and implement the multimillion-dollar redevelopment – have called for “managed access” to the original footprint of the Spanish-colonial mission’s plaza to enable its use as an open-air portion of the adjacent museum and create a stronger sense of reverence at the plaza. 

“Some suggest that the Alamo should be a more reverent space, in honor of the many indigenous peoples buried at the site, as well as the defenders of Texas liberty who gave their lives there,” the three officials wrote in the piece published by the San Antonio Express-News. “We agree.”

“However, while the complete story should be told and Texas heroes honored, the ultimate design for Alamo Plaza should not try to change its history as a civic space.

“It would be a disservice to our community to limit freedom of speech at our state’s most recognizable landmark.”

Click here to download a copy of the op-ed.

The current design team consultants – Cambridge, Massachusetts-based landscape architecture firm Reed Hilderbrand, St. Louis-based attraction design firm PGAV Destinations, and London-based museum and heritage consultants Cultural Innovations – have been working with City and General Land Office officials since December 2017 on the Interpretive Plan design. City Council approved the conceptual master plan in May 2017.

Nirenberg, then a Council member representing District 8, supported efforts to include language in the master plan that would have solidified the plaza’s use as a public, civic place. Those efforts were rejected by that Council, but as mayor he has continued to advocate for unfettered access.

“Some cite security as a primary reason to limit access to Alamo Plaza. While sensible precautions should be included in design plans to address safety concerns, ensuring consistent pedestrian access is essential to facilitating the Alamo’s role as a public space,” the opinion piece reads.

“The Archdiocese of San Antonio transferred title of the Alamo property to the City of San Antonio in 1872 on the condition that the Alamo and the plaza remain open for public access.”

Other design proposals such as moving the Cenotaph, closing surrounding streets, and changing established parade routes, the three officials wrote, should be carefully considered. “These and the many other important decisions will be determined with continued public input and due deliberation,” they wrote.

The board of AIA San Antonio, the local chapter of American Institute of Architects, sent a letter Thursday to the mayor and City Council asking to keep the buildings, keep the streets open to vehicles, and keep the plaza open to pedestrians, among other things. While Treviño is an AIA member, he said he does not agree with the entirety of the letter. In previous meetings and plan presentations, he seemed supportive of the plan as a whole. Treviño is also a tri-chair of the Alamo Management Committee, which is charged with collecting community input on the design.

Other prominent local entities are expected to weigh in on the Alamo plan, but some – such as the Visit San Antonio board – are waiting until that plan is more fully formed.

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Iris Dimmick

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