San Antonio’s Historic Design and Review Commission and the Planning Commission approved changes to Alamo Plaza Wednesday night.
Commissioners for the Planning Commission passed the lease agreements for the Alamo Plaza and street closures 6-1 with one abstention. HDRC passed the conceptual approval of the Alamo Master Plan and moving of the Cenotaph Monument 8-1. Commissioners on both panels are appointed by the San Antonio City Council.
The changes are part of an overhaul of the grounds listed in the Alamo Master Plan that could reach over $340 million. The plan has already been approved by San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. The next step in solidifying the Alamo Master Plan is City Council approval next Thursday.
At a work session earlier in the day, council members were divided about the plans.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said to preserve the Alamo, the updates need to be done with “care, caution, and respect.”
“In order for us to sanctify the space, to recognize the history of the battle, to honor the defenders, to recognize and honor the history that occurred over the last 300 years on the site, there are changes that need to be made,” Nirenberg said.
Council members Perry, Courage, and Gonzales did not immediately support the plan for various reasons. District 9 Councilman John Courage said he disagrees with moving the Cenotaph, which depicts the fallen defenders of the Alamo and specific access points into the plaza.
“I can appreciate making the Alamo Plaza a pedestrian plaza, although I’ll miss the parades marching in front of the chapel, but I don’t appreciate limiting our citizen’s access to it,” Courage said. “I feel that’s a big problem.
Part of the plan will create formal points of entry instead of access from any direction into the plaza.
The full San Antonio City Council will also consider lease agreements and street closures.
HDRC Chair Michael Guarino said there have been more than 200 meetings for public opinion which has been taken into consideration for the plan.
“I’m satisfied that the planning team has tried to take everything into consideration that they’ve heard now over the course of this time,” he said.
The Alamo Master Plan includes changes to the church, long barracks, garden, as well as Alamo Plaza in front of the Alamo.
The Texas General Land Office currently owns the Alamo grounds and three historic buildings across Alamo Street. The city owns Alamo Plaza.
Parts of the Alamo Master Plan approved by the planning and HDRC commissions also includes lease agreements that would allow the state to oversee Alamo Plaza for 50 years with two 25-year extension options, and closing streets around the Alamo to traffic, including portions of Houston, Alamo, Crockett, and Blum streets.
But the relocation of the Cenotaph has been the largest point of public contention.
Forrest Byas, a member of the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee, is a descendant of Andrew Kent, whose name is on the Cenotaph. He supports moving it from where it stands on the former battlefield.
“I’m generally happy with everything. Closing the streets, building a museum, delineating the location of the battleground and the mission because you have to tell the whole 300 years,” said Bayas, adding that in battlefields in the northeastern U.S. do not have monuments in the middle of the battleground.
Brandon Burkhart, president of This is Texas Freedom Force, and his group has advocated preserving the monument as it is.
“The Cenotaph needs to sit where blood soaked the ground of the defenders,” he said.
Burkhart and his organizations have attended many public meetings and talked to residents and tourists outside the Alamo. He said after all the public meetings, their concerns are not being heard.
“Sure they’ll let you speak but they don’t listen to a word that the citizens have to say,” he said.
Other portions of the master plan include creating entry points at certain locations and rerouting the Battle of Flowers and Fiesta Flambeau Parades during Fiesta. The parades passed in front of the Alamo for participates to lay floral wreaths in front of the shrine. It also plans for a museum to open inside the state-owned historic buildings across from Alamo Plaza.
District 1 City Councilman Roberto Trevino, chair for the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee, has been part of the Alamo plan’s development since it began discussion in 2015.
“I’m glad to see that we’re moving this forward. This is part of a much, much bigger project that we hope to continue and we’re just glad that we’re at this point,” Trevino said.
Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.