The proposed master plan for the Alamo Plaza redevelopment project has been a controversial point of discussion in San Antonio over the past few weeks.
Reactions to preliminary renderings – produced by Preservation Design Partnership (PDP), the Philadelphia-based firm that is leading the project’s design – have been mixed. Residents, architects, and history buffs have criticized plans for a proposed glass wall that would go around the mission’s original courtyard boundary and the large, dirt plaza with no shade cover.
Some members of the City’s Planning Commission, which met Wednesday afternoon, said they’ve heard the same concerns from community members, along with questions about the type of material designers plan on using for the plaza grounds.
Assistant City Manager Lori Houston, who presented the plan to the commission, said officials are working on addressing each of those issues. Concerning the wall, she said, the design team is “focused on making sure we don’t create synthetic history” by constructing it out of stone materials and, thus, giving visitors the impression that a wall of the same material existed there centuries ago. Glass would not cause such confusion.
The glass wall would provide an extra layer of protection for the Alamo while still allowing the public to see the mission. Some have argued that such a structure would limit accessibility to the plaza.
Officials are still analyzing what to do about the potential for muddiness in the dirt plaza, and are considering options to add more shade to the area, Houston said.
City officials will present current plan elements to City Council on May 11 for conceptual approval. Council members will review concepts related to “recapturing the historic courtyard,” creating the on-site museum, and creating connectivity between the Alamo and other cultural downtown attractions, Houston said. They also will be asked to conceptually approve two street closures – Alamo Plaza from Houston to Market streets and Crockett Street from Bonham to Losoya streets – the repairing and relocation of the cenotaph to a place “within context,” view shed protection for the area behind the Alamo, and leasing management duties for the courtyard to the General Land Office, she added.
The State would be charged with maintaining the courtyard. Houston said there is some legislation currently being considered that would create a special tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ) for San Antonio, where 2% of the hotel occupancy taxes collected by the State in that zone would go toward the Alamo courtyard maintenance – about $6 million to $7 million a year.
Once City Council approves the aforementioned elements, they will then be reviewed by the Planning, Zoning, and Historic and Design Review commissions, pending Council approval.
Citizens can voice their concerns, praise, and any ideas related to the Alamo Master Plan at the final public meeting on the subject Tuesday, May 2, at 6 p.m. at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Room 301.
For more Rivard Report coverage of the Alamo Plaza Master Plan, see our archives here.