Mayor Ron Nirenberg (left) shakes hands with Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) after the City Council approved the Alamo Redevelopment Plan in 2018.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg (left) shakes hands with Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) after the City Council approved the Alamo Redevelopment Plan in 2018. Credit: Edward A. Ornelas for the San Antonio Report

This article has been updated.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg is shaking up key committees overseeing a stalled Alamo redevelopment in an effort to keep the project going forward.

On Monday, Nirenberg removed Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) from the Alamo Management Committee he has chaired since last April and from the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee, where he served as tri-chair. Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) will serve in those roles instead.

Nirenberg said his decision comes from Treviño’s hard line on moving the Alamo Cenotaph, a 1930s monument to Texas revolutionaries killed during the 1836 battle. The monument has been a political lightning rod, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick among the conservative voices across the state calling for the monument to stay where it is.

“Regardless of your position on the Cenotaph moving, it’s not moving,” Nirenberg told reporters Monday. “We have to also agree that the Alamo Plan is much bigger than simply the location of the Cenotaph.”

The Alamo is in Treviño’s downtown council district, and the councilman has for six years been the City’s lead representative on the $450 million Alamo redevelopment plan that involves the City, the Texas General Land Office (GLO), and Alamo Trust, the site’s nonprofit steward.

The project’s future has been in limbo since September when the Texas Historical Commission nixed a proposal to relocate the Cenotaph out of central place in Alamo Plaza to a new location outside Menger Hotel. Treviño has said the City should withhold its $17 million set aside for the project unless the Cenotaph moves, as planned.

Treviño sees moving the Cenotaph as essential to creating a historic site that emphasizes the Alamo as a confluence of cultures, with European, Native American, Tejano, Mexican, and Black people all playing a role over the site’s 300-year history.

Treviño declined to speak to reporters Monday, instead issuing a statement in which he described himself as “disappointed” and the redevelopment as “disintegrating.”

“We have lost a tremendous opportunity with the unraveling of this project,” Treviño said. “In the meantime, we cannot abdicate our principles and responsibility to the community we serve to pursue a project that no longer serves our best interest, but the best interest of the State.”

Nirenberg rejects this view of the project.

“Council member Treviño believes that without the Cenotaph moving the plan is over, and that’s just not the case,” Nirenberg said. “We have to accept the reality that the THC denied the permit.”

In Viagran, Nirenberg appoints a replacement with experience with San Antonio’s historic missions. She was an important figure in having missions Concepción, San Juan, San José, and Espada declared United Nations World Heritage sites. The Alamo’s Church and Long Barrack date back to the Spanish colonial era, with the preservation of those buildings central to the GLO’s part of the project.

“She has a unique level of experience of developing historic sites,” Nirenberg said. “She has a very well-articulated passion for telling the whole story of San Antonio’s history.”

Viagran told the San Antonio Report she’s committed to the original vision of the Alamo Plan, which called for a fuller accounting of the site’s history than the Texas Revolution-focused interpretation that visitors experience now.

“We know there is a much richer and deeper story that can be and should be told,” Viagran said. “I think we can still do that with the Cenotaph where it is.”

As of late February, Viagran was among those under consideration for a job as executive director of Alamo Trust. The top job at the nonprofit has been vacant since Sept. 30, when former Alamo Trust CEO Douglass McDonald left the role. Viagran said on Monday that as part of her appointment to the committees, she is no longer under consideration for the executive director job.

On Monday, McDonald praised Treviño’s commitment to the redevelopment plan.

“Roberto Treviño demonstrated exceptional leadership on this project and guided a project, that was fully transparent that everybody was a part of,” McDonald said. “Today, we don’t know what the plan is and there was no transparent process … there have not been any public meetings. There seems to be a new plan that has never been communicated to the public.”

As one of the most important historic sites in the United States and Texas, he said, the Alamo “deserves to be world class, to have a project with world class designers, and a process which is fully transparent that the public can support.”

Nirenberg’s shakeup comes with other Alamo committee appointments.

On the Alamo Management Committee, Nirenberg is replacing City Manager Erik Walsh with City Attorney Andy Segovia. Doing so allows the City and GLO to have both of their legal representatives on the committee, Nirenberg said.

That could prove important as the City and GLO renegotiate a 2018 lease agreement, which currently stipulates that the Cenotaph be moved. Nirenberg and Viagran said they want to ensure that lease requires the GLO to preserve historic buildings on the west side of Alamo Plaza and keep public access to the plaza open.

On the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee, Nirenberg appointed local arts and civic leader Aaronetta Pierce to fill a tri-chair position left vacant last year by retired ad executive Lionel Sosa. Nirenberg also appointed Trinity University historian Carey Latimore to the committee.

Nirenberg said Monday the Alamo committees would resume meetings and “workshops,” though he didn’t specify dates.

“Ultimately, any changes to the lease agreement will be brought to City Council for final approval,” Nirenberg said.

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick contributed to this article.

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.