(From left) Chris Daigle and Tim Massey stand to listen to the presentation.
(From left) Chris Daigle and Tim Massey stand at the back of a crowded room to listen to a design team's proposal for Alamo Plaza's transformation. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

There were, as expected, mixed reactions from the audience and Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee on Thursday night after a design team revealed a rough draft of the plan to redevelop the Alamo and surrounding area.

It was standing room only in the Witte Museum’s Prassel Auditorium and adjacent overflow room as more than 100 people and the 21-member committee listened to proposals for how to make Alamo Plaza a “world-class” destination. Click here to download a copy of the presentation.

But some weren’t interested in such international appeal.

As Eric Kramer, a principal of one of the consultant firms the City of San Antonio and State of Texas selected to work on this project, described the road closures and other options proposed by the team, someone in the audience yelled: “Obviously, you don’t live here.”

“Go back to London,” yelled another.

Other members of the audience shushed them.

Kramer’s firm, Reed Hilderbrand, is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The other two consultant firms are St. Louis-based attraction design firm PGAV Destinations and London-based museum and heritage consultants Cultural Innovations.

A rendering shows the conceptual plaza which provides areas for public expression surrounding the Alamo Cenotaph.
A rendering shows the conceptual plaza which provides areas for “public expression” or protests surrounding the Alamo Cenotaph. Credit: Courtesy / Texas General Land Office

The short exchange exemplifies the type of conflicts expected in the great modern Alamo debate: Some San Antonians have deep emotional and familial ties to the Alamo and can’t stand to see “out-of-towners” work on proposals for changing it. Others – some with stronger or weaker ties – see this as an opportunity to improve the iconic site.

“I don’t care if you’re from London or anywhere else – you’re welcome to be here even if you disagree,” said Davis Phillips, appointed to the committee as the tourism industry’s representative. Most of the audience applauded after Phillips spoke.

The designers are not making the decisions, said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1). The citizen committee, comprised of 21 members appointed by the mayor and City Council members, and then City Council itself will ultimately have to approve the plan before it can be implemented. Treviño is also a tri-chair of the committee.

Another point of contention is the suggestion to move the Alamo Cenotaph, a 1936 memorial to the Alamo defenders who died in the battle, to a location less than 500 feet away. Yet another is how – or whether – to manage entry to the original mission footprint (The tall glass walls of an earlier proposal are gone, but fences and railings remain). And then there are traffic concerns related to the proposed closure of East Houston and South Alamo streets.

Members of the committee have or at least recognize these concerns, many said Thursday. But most agreed that the proposals presented were a good first step.

There will be four meetings this month – on June 18, 19, 20, and 21 – for the public to provide input on the draft design. Each meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. Click here to download details. Four more meetings are to be planned for July.

The committee will meet next on July 10, when it expects to see adjustments made based on community feedback.

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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 workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org