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Updated: Alamo plan now solely in Nirenberg's hands

by Ben OlivoSep 13, 2018
Alamo Plaza is due for a major renovation in the coming years. BEN OLIVO | SAN ANTONIO HERON

For the controversial Alamo interpretive plan, what had been a speedy approval process in the past two weeks has now come to a halt, according to two high-ranking officials.

All persons involved in the process have signed off on the $250-$300 million plan except one person: Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

"There is a process that has to be worked through before moving to final approval," Nirenberg said in a statement late Thursday. "It is important to follow that process and make sure each necessary step is properly executed."

However, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño had hoped the mayor would have signed off on the plan by now.

"It's his prerogative," Treviño said. "If that's the way he wants to do it, that's up to him."

Two weeks ago, the 29-member Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee approved the plan, which has become a lightning rod for groups who oppose the relocation of the Cenotaph and funneling of visitors to the Alamo grounds through one entrance during museum hours, among other aspects. Last week, the Alamo Management Committee also signed off on the plan, and immediately forwarded the document to the Alamo Executive Committee, a two-person body composed of Nirenberg and Bush, for final approval.

In a statement released late Thursday afternoon, Bush announced that he had signed an executive committee resolution approving the plan. In his statement, Bush even included a photo of the document with a "sign here" sticker pointing to the line that awaits Nirenberg's signature.

TEXAS GENERAL LAND COMMISSION

In an interview Thursday night, Treviño expressed confusion as to why Nirenberg has not signed off on the plan. There are two processes going on, Treviño said. One is the process of the plan itself, which was agreed upon by the City of San Antonio, the State of Texas and The Alamo Endowment.

Separately, the City Council still has to decide on whether to lease the city-owned Alamo Plaza to the state, and on the closure of portions of Alamo, Houston and Crockett streets. Before that vote, these details must be presented to the city's Planning Commission and Historic and Design Review Commission.

However, Nirenberg considers both trajectories as one. He wants to see these local-level processes run their course before making a decision. In his statement, he also mentioned an architectural study of the three buildings across from the Alamo facade — the Crockett, Palace and Woolworth buildings — which is also currently underway. Some in the community, most notably the San Antonio Conservation Society, fear the study will conclude that those buildings must be partially or completely demolished.

"That will be completed late in the year, and that finding is important," the mayor wrote.

The timetable for both processes remains completely up to Nirenberg at this point — as the only member of the executive committee to not have signed off the plan, and as San Antonio's mayor, who can control when the Council ultimately votes. Some members of the Council, such as District 9 Councilman John Courage, have thrown their support behind the groups who oppose the Cenotaph relocation.

In an email earlier this week, Nirenberg's Communications Director, Bruce Davidson, said he expects the executive committee and the City Council's final approval — i.e., Nirenberg's signature — to happen in November or December. Such a timeframe, Treviño said, would delay the Alamo Plaza project.

"I don't think anybody on the management committee can explain why he would wait until December to sign," said Treviño, who, along with city administrators, had put the Council vote on Oct. 18. "It's certainly not part of any process we designed. I can't explain that. You'll have to ask him."

The timing is critical, Treviño said, in order to meet the anticipated completion date of January 2024, the 300th anniversary of the year the Mission San Antonio de Valero was moved to its current location. So far, the state has allocated roughly $106 million, and the city $38 million in bond dollars, to the project. The gap will be fundraised privately, Treviño said.

This incarnation of the plan has been controversial since it was released to the public in early June.

Most notably, two groups — This is Texas Freedom Force and the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association —  have opposed plans to move the Cenotaph roughly 500 feet south to a location in front of the Menger Hotel. The new location would put the monument outside the Alamo walls, away from the actual grounds where they died, some argue. Treviño and other planners say it's appropriate because it's the location of one of the post-1836 battle funeral pyres.

Friday morning, members of these groups are scheduled to hold a rally at the Cenotaph, where State Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg, is expected to join them at 10 a.m. for some sort of announcement.

The Battle of Flowers Association vehemently opposed a route change for its Fiesta parade, the original Fiesta event in 1891, but recently capitulated and agreed a new route that would bring the procession to a replica of the south palisade near the Menger.

Under the Alamo interpretive plan, the Battle of Flowers Parade would make its Alamo stop at a recreation of the south palisade, instead of on Alamo Street, which would be closed. COURTESY RENDERING

A group of architects, lead by David Lake, partner and co-founder of architecture firm Lake | Flato, oppose any type of walling off of the Alamo grounds. Under the plan, the Alamo grounds would have one entrance during museum hours — roughly at the Crockett Building, which is directly across Alamo Street from the iconic church facade — with two auxiliary entrances near the Emily Morgan and Menger hotels, should there be a need to alleviate congestion. But during non-museum hours, the grounds would be accessible through six entrances. Click here for a full recap of that debate.

COURTESY RENDERINGS

Finally, the San Antonio Conservation Society mainly opposes any type of demolition to the Crockett, Palace and Woolworth buildings.

In his statement, Bush said, "I would like to thank the committed members of the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee who donated countless hours to help make this plan a reality. Their selfless efforts will ensure a plan of consensus that will restore dignity and reverence to the original battlefield site of 1836. I would also like to thank the Alamo Management Committee for your commitment to the process and for bringing forward the plan that will ensure future Texans will always 'Remember The Alamo.'

"We will be forever grateful to all Texans who provided their input and feedback on the plan. I ask the mayor to join me in executing this plan to treat the Alamo with the respect and reverence it deserves. God Bless the Alamo and God Bless Texas."

Related
» The most recent vision of the Alamo interpretive plan release last month
» Complete version of the Alamo interpretive plan released in June

» Read all of the Heron's Alamo stories here.

Heron reporter Paula Schuler contributed to this report.

Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | ben@saheron.com | @rbolivo on Twitter

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