After nearly four years of debate, protests, and contentious public meetings, San Antonio City Council this afternoon gave final approval to the $300 million, six year plan to 're-imagine' Alamo Plaza, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
State Land Commissioner George P. Bush said this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to transform a world renowned shrine into a true destination of global importance.
"Did we come to the defense of the Alamo, or did we let this once in a generation opportunity, or did we let this once in a generation opportutnity fall between our hands," Bush said.
But there was plenty of opposition.Susan Bevan, who heads the Conservation Society, said the plan 'takes away a civic space for the community,' and presented petition signatures from people who oppose the Master Plan.
Opposition centered around two issues. Bevan and others expressed concern that the Alamo Plaza will be stripped from residents and will no longer be available to the public. Many people said the concerns of the public were ignored in the rush to satisfy the General Land Office plan.
"If you are truly a Texans and are truly born and raised in San Antonio, you would not approve this plan," one opponent said.
But ad man Lionel Sosa, who was on the citizens committee that approved the plan, said the citizens were listened to."Some of us got some of what we wanted, but nobody got everything they wanted," he said.
Bush said this is an opportunity to do what has been tried several times before, but has never succeeded.
"I would argue that this plan is the most important historic preservation plan not only in the State of Texas, but in the United States of America," he said.
The city's vote includes two 25 year leases to lease Alamo Plaza to the GLO, the closing of Alamo Street and the portion of Houston Street north of the Alamo.
The Alamo PLaza will be enlarged, and the area directly in front of the Alamo will become an 'historic space,' where visitors will have a better opportunity to experience the scene of the battle.
While the historic plaza will be deliniated, probably with a waist high railing, City official Lori Houston said access will never be denied, and an admission fee will never be charged.
"It will always be fre to walk into Alamo Plaza, the Alamo Church, and the Long Barracks," she said.
The plan also includes the creation of a 'world class museum,' probably in the historic Woolworth Building, which is across what is now Alamo Street from the Alamo.
In a very contentious decision, the Cenotaph will be removed from the 'historic plaza' and will be relocated to the 'civic plaza' to the south, near the Menger Hotel. Many protesters held signs reading 'Don't Move It' and 'Not One Inch.'
But in the end, Bush's encouragement won out.
"This is our chance. This vote is a milestone of historic significance for the city. We can't allow the Alamo of tomorrow to become a decaying relic."
The Texas Historic Commission will rubber stamp today's vote, and the work could begin before the end of the year.
The first two projects will be structural repairs to the Alamo, and an engineering study on the Woolworth Building to make sure it is structurally sound enough to house the world class museum.