San Antonio buys Alamo Plaza from Texas General Land Office

This article has been updated.

The city will regain control of Alamo Plaza as it renegotiates a stalled Alamo redevelopment with the Texas General Land Office (GLO), city officials said on Monday.

Deputy city manager Lori Houston said on Monday that the city and GLO were both interested in handing the construction of Alamo Plaza, Crockett Street and Bonham Street to the city instead of GLO, which was at originally used to manage all of Alamo’s proposed $ 450 million. redevelopment.

Making those changes means revising a 2018 lease agreement between the city and the GLO, Houston said at a meeting of the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee. The city, GLO and Alamo Trust, the nonprofit steward of the site, “have all agreed” that each entity will become “the point of contact and primary responsibility for this component of the plan they are funding,” Houston said. .

In a follow-up email Tuesday, Houston stressed that “the city will fund Alamo Plaza and be primarily responsible for construction on the project, however, the state maintains its lease on the Plaza.”

San Antonio set aside $ 38 million in bond funds in 2017 for the project, including $ 13 million “spent or committed,” Houston said. The GLO has $ 46.4 million remaining of the Texas Legislature’s $ 136 million in allowances to preserve the complex, according to a report by a state auditor.

The meeting marked the first glimpse of how Alamo’s redevelopment could unfold following a September vote by the Texas Historical Commission that blocked the relocation of the Alamo cenotaph. The 1930s monument was supposed to be moved under the City-GLO lease, a document that also granted control of parts of Alamo Plaza to the GLO in 2018, with the remainder of the plaza to be relocated in July.

But it all had to do with creating space for an Alamo museum, Houston said. Private philanthropists were supposed to raise up to $ 200 million to fund this museum, but many withdrew after the Texas Historical Commission voted to block the cenotaph from moving. Alamo Trust is still responsible for raising funds for the museum and making improvements to connect the museum instead.

The association “is still working on what this budget would look like,” Houston said.

“The refusal to move the cenotaph compromised the ability to implement the Alamo plan,” Houston told committee members. “Concretely, this endangered the museum. As long as there is no certainty that the museum will be built, there is no reason to close the streets.

Houston said the role of the GLO would be limited to the Alamo grounds itself, continuing ongoing restorations at the church and Long Barrack and creating a collections building to house the artifacts donated by the songwriter. – British performer and passionate Alamo Phil Collins.

The failure of the cenotaph is proving an opportunity for San Antonio officials to lock in two key local priorities: keeping Alamo Plaza open and preserving the historic buildings at the western end of the plaza. Mayor Ron Nirenberg called for both at Monday’s meeting, the first since September and the first with two new tri-presidents, Councilor Rebecca Viagran (D3) and Aaronetta Pierce, civil rights leader and advocate for the arts.

“It was long, it was frustrating, it was maddening, but it was productive, ”Viagran told committee members. “From communication to progress to coordination, I want you to know that I am committed to recalibrating this.”

Houston also revealed new members to the Alamo management committee, which has seen constant turnover over the past year. The committee is now made up of Viagran and municipal lawyer Andy Segovia, who represent the city; former US Representative Will Hurd and Hope Andrade, who represent Alamo Trust; and Hector Valle and Jeff Gordon, who represent the GLO.

Monday’s meeting appeared to be a new chapter in a roughly seven-year saga, with many members expressing cautious optimism about a project that has seen repeated delays and long periods of silence from officials. involved. Sharon Skrobarcek, speech therapist and former president of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas local chapter, said: “It would be important to know in advance what permits are needed.”

“Personally my frustration was that I thought it was a done deal, and we were just waiting to finish it and open it,” Skrobarcek said of the plan approved by city council in October 2018.

Davis Phillips, CEO of the company that owns tourist attractions in Alamo Plaza, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Tomb Rider 3D and the Guinness World Records Museum, said officials needed to “be clear about what it means to ‘tell the whole story.’ often use the phrase as an indirect reference to 300 years of racially charged history still debated today.

“It sounds good. It’s a wonderful sound sample, but we have to say what it means, ”Phillips said.

For some, the committee is the ideal place to deal with these questions of Texan identity. Its 30 members include historians, academics, history advocates, descent groups and Texas revolutionaries, as well as members of the local tourism and hospitality industry.

A March 8 list of members of the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee. Credit: Courtesy of the City of San Antonio

“The composition of this committee allows us to discuss among ourselves all the issues that concern us,” said Pierce. “I believe the expertise we need is within us. So all of these ideas that need to be debated can be. “

The committee is preparing for an intense series of meetings: three one-hour “listening circles” scheduled for March 16-18; a workshop from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on March 24; and two public meetings from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 29 and from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on March 31.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Will Hurd had left the Alamo management committee. This information was based on a slide presented at the meeting that incorrectly showed Welcome Wilson Jr. on the committee instead of Hurd. The story has also been updated to accurately reflect Sharon Skrobarcek’s former role with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.

Gregory M. Roy