Planning Commission Okays Alamo Plan, Some on Council Still Skeptical

The San Antonio Planning Commission and Historic and Design Review Commission have voted 8-1 to approve that massive plan to renovate Alamo Plaza, sending the proposal to City Council for a final vote next week, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

But in their first formal briefing on the plan, several members of Council appeared skeptical, with the biggest concerns being over key proposals to move the Cenotaph, and to 'wall off' the 'historic' portion of the vastly expanded Alamo Plaza, to give visitors a better idea of the ground the Mission covered during the 1836 battle.

John Casmin, one of the designers of the master plan, told City Council that the changes are necessary for the proper preservation of the site.

"We know that some of the current activities threaten the sensitive structures and do not permit the full story to be told," he said.

Casmin said the five goals of the Master Plan are:

1) Restore the Church and Long Barracks

2) Delinieate the Historic Footprint

3) Recapture the historic Mission Plaza and create a sense of reverence and respect on the historic battlefield.

4) Repurpose the Crockett, Woolworth, and Palace buildings into a world-class visitor center and museum that tells the story of the Battle of the Alamo and over 300 years of layered history

5) Create a sense of arrival to the site and enhance connectivity between the site and other public places.

Casmin says that is not happening now.

"We knows that the Alamo lies at the heart of San Antonio's civic life," he said.  "Today that experience is compromised.  It is neither a welcoming urban plaza and it is not hearly as powerful a historic site as it could be right now."

Among the major changes that have been made to the master plan since the first renderings were released last year include removing that proposed plexiglass wall around the Alamo, adding more shade, and insuring 24 hour access.

Downtown Councilman Roberto Trevino says the changes will be significant, but they will benefit everybody.

"Because we are enhancing and enriching the history on site, any other traditions that do just that will themselves be enriched and enhanced," he said.

He was referring to plans to close Alamo, Houston, and Crockett Streets to vehicular traffic, which will force the Battle of Flowers Parade to take essentially the 'back way' to get to the Alamo, which is one of the areas that some members of Council found problems with.

There is also a plan in place to lower the elevation of the 'Historic Plaza,' to meet the goal of 'deliniating the footprint.'  There is also currently a plan to build some sort of barrier around the Historic Plaza, so visitors can more easily see where the footprint of the Mission that was the location of the 1836 battle was located, and how large it was.

There is also a plan to create 'one entrance' to the Plaza, possibly through the museums which would be open 24 hours a day.  

But some council members expressed concern that the Historic Plaza will not be as accessible as they would like.  The planners stressed that the Civic Plaza will be always open to all uses.

And, of course, the plan calls for removing and relocating the Cenotaph to the Civil Plaza, near the location of the Menger Hotel.

City Council will vote on the Master Plan next week, and then the Texas Historical Commission will vote later in the month.

If both groups approve, the first steps to be taken will be an engineering study of the 19th Century buildings to determine if they are structurally sound enough to house the museum, and beginning of major work to restore the Alamo and Long Barracks.The entire project is set to be completed by 2024.

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