On Tuesday evening, the group working to “reimagine’ the Alamo and its surrounding plaza finally unveiled its major redesign for the iconic monument in a public meeting. The goal: return a sense of “reverence” to the historic mission-turned-battlefield. Some of the suggestions — like blocking off Alamo Street from traffic, removing the flashy tourist shops that face the Alamo, and banning protests from the Alamo square — were already revealed in a December presentation to the city council. But several major parts of the plan, drafted by members of the Texas General Land Office, the City of San Antonio and the Alamo Endowment, were seen for the first time Tuesday night.
Here are some ways the project’s planners hope to “restore dignity” to the Alamo.
Lots of glass
The plan calls for building large, translucent glass walls representing the original south boundary wall of the mission. Arguably most unusual part of the proposal, these walls would “light up” at night and be used as the main entry point for Alamo visitors. There are no tips, however, on how to avoid walking straight into the see-through, colorless wall during the daytime. It’s oddly reminiscent of some of the more artistic proposals for Trump’s border wall.
The plan also includes building sturdy glass sidewalks where visitors can look at the excavated historical artifacts beneath them. Cool!
Inhospitable = "historic"
The vision for the plaza unveiled Tuesday night would remove cement and pavement along Alamo Street and the sidewalks in front of the shrine to uncover what planners call the “historic living surface.” Translation: “dirt.”
The plan would also remove plants, pavement, benches, etc. from this newly uncovered dirt plaza (reaching from Crockett St to Houston St) — meaning there will be no shade or sitting areas for tourists. Just dirt. According to Gene Powell, a member of the Alamo Endowment Board interviewed by the Rivard Report, filling the plaza with practical seating and shade would betray the plaza’s original vibe. “[The plaza] was not a real hospitable place,” he said.
Apparently that means the end result of a $450 million project shouldn’t be all that hospitable, either.
However, native plants, shrubs, and trees will line the border of this proposed plaza, along with waterways representing the mission’s original acequias that supplied the original mission with fresh water.
Restoring dignity remains a central focus to this plan. The project does little to elaborate on what this truly means, but the Thursday presentation included a few photos to illustrate the plaza’s alleged degradation. It appears dressing in a T-Rex costume and riding a segway by the Alamo is a slap in the face to the historic site. Oh, and protesting circumcision? None of these undignified scenes will be found in the future Alamo plaza.
The plan would also “repurpose” the buildings that face the Alamo (currently home to Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not!, the Guinness World Records Museum, and Tomb Raider 3D) to house a “world class" Alamo history museum. In the prevention, the planners politely call the current building occupants “visual and sound pollution."
Peace and quiet
The plan calls for getting rid of the First Amendment Zone, the area in front of the Alamo where anyone can hold a protest, and move it to some undisclosed location. It most definitely won’t have the Alamo as a background. Other fun things that would no longer be allowed in Alamo plaza if the plan's approved: parades (goodbye, Battle of the Flowers), vendors, festivals, and decor, like the Christmas Tree.
The also has already promised $17 million toward the massive redesign, and put another $21 million for pedestrian and aesthetic upgrades on a May 6 bond issue.
The Land Office, after securing $25 million for the master plan and resulting projects in 2015, has requested $75 million from the Legislature
This Alamo overhaul is expected to be completed by 2023, according to the presentation. But first, it needs city council approval — and some kind of financial guarantee. As of now, the city's committed $17 million to the project, and has tacked $21 million to the pending bond. The General Land Office, which has already secured $25 million, is holding its breath for the legislature to sign off on a $75 billion request.
Have more questions? Have an axe to grind with city planners? Advocate for segway rights? Show up at one of the upcoming public meetings on the plan to speak your mind.