The Texas General Land Office has purchased three historic buildings across from Alamo Plaza for $14.4 million, a deal that is expected to heavily contribute to multi-million dollar master plan to redevelop and revitalize the area surrounding the downtown landmark.
The Woolworth (518 E. Houston St.), Palace (319 Alamo Plaza) and Crockett (321 Alamo Plaza) buildings combined add nearly 100,000 sq. ft. of publicly-owned commercial space to the historic district. The buildings were purchased from Service Life and Casualty Insurance Co. of Austin.
“The purchase of these buildings caps an extraordinary year in the history of the Alamo,” stated GLO Commissioner George P. Bush in a news release. “In one year, we have upgraded the state’s management of the Alamo complex, re-established the Alamo Endowment Board with Texas titans, begun work with San Antonio on the master plan, and now with the Texas Legislature’s support the state purchased irreplaceable properties adjacent to the plaza. While there will be no immediate changes for the tenants, having the state own these buildings will help as we all work together to make the Alamo the destination that it should be.”
The buildings are currently occupied by tourist attractions and services including the Guinness World Records Museum, Tomb Raider 3D, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, apparel store Del Sol, and Grand Trolley Tours.
Phillips Entertainment Inc. is the Woolworth and Palace buildings’ main tenant and runs the Haunted Adventure, Tomb Rider, and Guinness World Records. The local company has long-term leases. GLO Press Secretary Brittany Eck told the Rivard Report in October, when plans of the sale were revealed, that the terms of those leases would not be effected by the sale.
The purchase is the direct result of the Texas Legislature’s $31.5 million investment in preservation of the Alamo and redevelopment of the Alamo Plaza – $25 million of which was a one-time allocation for long-term efforts made on Sept. 1.
A master plan, created by a partnership between the City of San Antonio, the GLO, and Alamo Endowment, will be presented to City Council for adoption within a year, likely next summer. The City is expected to contribute about $17 million in coming years to redevelopment of Alamo Plaza and surrounding areas. The total cost of planning and implementation could cost as much as $300 million, Alamo Endowment Chair Gene Powell told City Council in October.
Background from previous coverage:
The collaborative plan is an effort to better honor the Alamo and the Alamo Plaza as important historical and cultural sites that are now part of the serial World Heritage designation granted by UNESCO at its July meeting in Bonn, Germany. The plan is expected to include the construction of a museum and visitor center that tells the history of the site from its indigenous occupation, through the establishment there in the 1740s and 1750s of Mission San Antonio de Valero, its secularization by the Church in 1793, and later, as the site of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, which World Heritage delegates from Europe, Asia and South America cited in their unanimous support of the U.S. application.
British singer-songwriter Phil Collins donated to the Alamo what is considered to be the largest known private collection of Alamo and Texas Revolution artifacts last year, but it came with the stipulation that a proper, “Smithsonian-level” visitor center museum be established near the site in seven years. The Alamo Endowment board has been raising funds for such a center ever since.
*Top image: A woman sits at a snack bar at the Guinness World Records’ gift shop. Photo by Scott Ball.