SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – Some city council members are expressing their frustration over the absence of an alternate plan to redevelop Alamo Plaza with the Cenotaph at its current location.
The original design called for the Cenotaph to be moved a few hundred feet south near the Menger Hotel, but the Texas Historical Commission threw a wrench in that proposal in September when it denied a permit for the relocation of the monument.
During a special council meeting Thursday afternoon, Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia questioned why there was no plan B. Councilman Clayton Perry called it “arrogance,” and Councilman John Courage called for new leadership to devise a new plan.
“I think new eyes, new voices, new leadership, new direction is needed, and it’s not to say we’re going to give up on any of our guiding principles,” said Courage. “We need to rehabilitate and restore the (Alamo) chapel and the Long Barrack, including adding a second level back in there to tell the whole story.”
Courage said the Cenotaph needs to be repaired and restored in its current place.
“I think we need to relocate the amusements surrounding the Alamo to a designated area and replace them with more authentic-themed businesses to support the concept,” said Courage.
He also suggested that Alamo Plaza Street remain open for special events, such as the “parades and celebrations that we’ve been doing for years and years.”
Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales agrees that constituents were unhappy with parts of the redevelopment plan.
“The constituents don’t like it. The closing of the Plaza is totally unnecessary–the dropping of it, the closing of the streets–all of that is completely unnecessary,” said Gonzales.
She also questioned why a $450 million plan is needed to redevelop what is already the state’s top tourist attraction.
Councilman Pelaez said the improvements are needed because many visitors walk away from the Alamo asking,”Is that it?”
“The awesome story of the Alamo does not match the not-so-awesome experience of being at the Alamo, and I think we can change that,” Pelaez said. “Right now, there ain’t nobody feeling any awe.”
“Unlike Councilman Pelaez, I’ve always been in awe of the Alamo. I have always loved visiting it and all of the historic Missions,” said Gonzales. “If people feel disappointed, it’s because they bought into a myth of what they see on television.”
Pelaez Councilman supports telling the full story of the Alamo, starting with the indigenous people, Spanish exploration and the role of the Catholic Church, leading up to the Camino Real, the Texas Revolution and the Civil Rights movement, which includes the desegregation of the lunch counter at the Woolworth Building on Houston Street at Alamo Plaza Street. The Conservation Society of San Antonio has been fighting to preserve that structure.
“I don’t understand, and I don’t think I ever will, why the moaning and gnashing of teeth from certain quarters when they hear that somebody dares to tell other stories, as opposed to just one –that somehow telling other stories diminishes the story of the battle,” said the District 8 Councilman.
Perry said the main reason people visit the Alamo is because of the 1836 battle that was fought there.
“Let’s concentrate on the Church and Long Barrack. Protect those facilities and leave the Cenotaph where it’s at,” said Perry.
With the apparent unravelling of the original redevelopment plan, city council may choose to “unwind” the lease agreements with the General Land Office. The council did not take a vote Thursday, but members did go into executive session after the public special meeting.
Funding for the plan is uncertain. The council was told that five members of the Remember the Alamo Foundation board have resigned. The board was tasked with raising money for the Alamo redevelopment plan. Gene Powell also stepped down as Chairman of the Alamo Management Committee.
The funding was supposed to include about $200 million dollars in private donations, in addition to $38 million from the City and $106 million from the Texas Legislature.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said if a redevelopment plan is to move forward, there must be cooperation between the State and the City. He said the project for Alamo Plaza is “much bigger, much bigger than just the Cenotaph.”