The City of San Antonio no longer plans to lower Alamo Plaza or restrict pedestrian access as part of an Alamo redevelopment, according to City leaders who on Monday shared proposals for a new iteration of the Alamo Plan.
The plan has been in limbo since September, when the Texas Historical Commission denied a permit to relocate the Alamo Cenotaph from its place in the middle of Alamo Plaza.
That led to negotiations among the City, the Texas General Land Office (GLO), and Alamo Trust, the site’s nonprofit steward. Officials now say they can proceed with a version of the plan that can repair the Cenotaph and keep it in its current location, keep plaza access open, and still close Alamo Street and parts of connecting streets to most vehicle traffic, Assistant City Manager Lori Houston told reporters Monday.
“We don’t want to look at this as a done deal,” Houston said. “These are basically recommendations, and we want the [Alamo] Citizens Advisory Committee’s feedback on them.”
While many changes will take months to work through, a proposal to close Alamo Street in phases is moving more quickly. The City intends to close the street from Houston Street to Crockett Street by June 1, Houston said.
Here are some of the proposed changes:
Alamo Plaza is the site of the most significant differences between the Alamo Plan approved in 2018 and the latest proposals. The previous version had called for the mission’s historic footprint to be lowered approximately 2 feet, with railing lining its perimeter.
Both of these ideas have been abandoned, Houston said. The City now wants to use different colored pavers and landscaping cues to delineate Alamo Plaza from the historic footprint.
That means there’s no more need for railing. People will be allowed to move freely through Alamo Plaza, with no ticketing or gated entrances.
“Someone who is just a citizen of the city who wants to move north to south can continue to walk up Alamo [Street], right through this outdoor museum, and continue on their way,” said Eric Kramer, principal with Reed Hilderbrand, one of the design firms working on the project.
Visitors will have to pass through manned access points to enter the Alamo itself, including the church and Long Barrack, along with a museum planned for the area currently occupied by the Woolworth, Palace, and Crockett buildings. The GLO, which owns the buildings, has not said whether it intends to demolish or repurpose them to make room for a planned Alamo museum.
While the plaza will be open for pedestrians, officials are still planning to close portions of multiple streets around the site.
Street closures and Fiesta parades
Officials now plan to close Alamo Street in stages. The first phase will extend from Houston to Crockett, with later phases to extend south to Commerce Street.
“That way we can really see how the traffic works in that area, and the GLO and Alamo Trust can test out some of their programming,” Houston said. “Then we will go forward and close the rest once we start construction of the plaza.”
The closures wouldn’t apply to emergency vehicles and service vehicles accessing businesses along Alamo Street, Houston said. The City will use bollards and other vehicle controls, some of them moveable, to block traffic.
The plaza will remain open as a route for Fiesta parades, though grandstands will no longer be allowed in the area of the plaza closest to the Alamo itself. That area is to be considered a “quiet zone” when parades pass through, to retain a “reverence and a sacredness in and around the footprint area,” said Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3), who was recently appointed to leadership roles on key Alamo committees.
New archaeology committee
One other significant change could help cool conflicts between Alamo officials and local groups who say they are descended from indigenous people who lived at the Alamo and other missions.
Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation is a San Antonio group whose leaders want a seat on a State-run archaeological committee whose membership includes federally recognized Native American tribes. Tap Pilam and the GLO have sparred over the issue in federal and state courts over the past few years.
Houston said Monday that Tap Pilam leader Ramon Vasquez will be included in a new City-led archaeological committee that focuses on the City-owned property of the former mission campo santo, Houston said.
Houston said the City would do an “archival investigation” of the area, looking at previous reports and records and determining what to do if work on the plaza uncovers human remains. Archaeologists working on State-owned Alamo grounds have uncovered multiple bones and fragments in recent years.
The committee will also include 16 local groups already in dialogue with the City around human remains found at a downtown hospital site and adjacent Milam Park, Houston said. Other members will include City Archaeologist Shawn Marceaux and Vasquez’s fellow Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee members Carey Latimore and Sharon Skrobarcek. The six members of the GLO-led archaeology committee will also be invited, Houston said.
Viagran said the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee emphasized the importance of including local descendants’ groups in decisions over human remains.
“I think it was critical for us to reset and move forward,” Viagran said.