City Council Taking a Second Look at Controversial Alamo Plaza Master Plan

City Council is prepared to re-visit the highly controversial plan to 're-imagine' Alamo Plaza, but City Manager Sheryl Sculley says the basic goals of the master plan, which were unveiled last year, remain the same, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"Reclaiming the Plaza courtyard, to create a sense of reverence and respect, to build a world class visitor center and museum, and to create a sense of arrival, so that when you approach the Alamo you know where you are," she said.

Unchanged are plans to close Alamo and Crockett Streets, to redevelop the block of currently commercial buildings on the west side of Alamo Plaza, and to make sure that the Alamo represents the diverse history of the region, from the Native Americans to the development of San Antonio, but focusing on the 1836 battle.

What is essentially out of the plan is the very controversial idea of enclosing the entire Alamo Plaza with a plexiglass wall, which was included in the design by the Philadelphia based planners who worked on the original master plan.

But City Downtown Director Lori Houston says that doesn't mean something won't be done to make sure that visitors know they are arriving at Alamo Plaza.

"When you step onto Houston Street, or you are standing in front of those buildings, you know you are actually on the historic Mission Plaza, or the battlefield, but there really is no visual cue to tell you that you are on the sacred place," Houston said.

She says there will also be steps taken to preserve the 'dignity' of Alamo Plaza and what happened there, which will be accomplished largely by closing Alamo Street, which now is a warren of raspa vendors and tour buses.

And Houston says the first priority is to renovate the Alamo itself, which is showing its age.

"You have moisture that is being trapped in those walls, you have a lot of decay happening to the stone, and you have vibrations from the traffic along Alamo Street, and that is causing the church and Long Barrack to have some serious preservation issues."

She said funding allocated for the Alamo Plaza project by the 2017 Legislature will be earmarked for badly needed repairs and to firm up the Alamo itself.

Now, to the Cenotaph. 

One of the most controversial parts of the original Master Plan was to move the Cenotaph, which was built at the time of the Alamo Battle Centennial in 1936, to the location along the San Antonio River where the bodies of the Alamo defenders are believed to have been cremated by Santa Anna's troops, which is roughly across the river from the Convention Center.

Downtown Councilman Roberto Trevino says, while it remains unclear where it will end up, the Cenotaph will be moved.

"As the Master Plan recommended, we want to recapture the space that was the Mission," he said.  "As we like to say now, the Alamo is not a building, it's a place."

Houston says the latest plan is not to move it out of the immediate Alamo Plaza area

."We are proposing to relocate it, but relocating it to a site within context and within the area," she said.  "So the Cenotaph will always be a place for rememberance and honor, so we are proposing to relocate it within the area."

One proposal is to move the Cenotaph to just north of what is now the corner of Alamo and Houston Streets, near the former Joske's store, where it could serve as an 'entrance' to Alamo Plaza.

There was also talk about extending the 'feel' of the Alamo across all of the east side of downtown, to give visitors the knowledge that they are entering a 'special area' and not just more of the downtown area.

City Council stressed that the Alamo redesign has no deadline, although plans are to have the project completed by 2024.  City Council is expected to consider the new Master Plan this summer.

PHOTO; Getty Images

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