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San Antonio City Council approves additional $7.4 million for Alameda Theater restoration

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio

The San Antonio City Council has unanimously approved $7 million for the Alameda theater’s restoration project.

The 72-year-old theater was one of the largest Spanish language theaters in the country for decades before it closed in the 1980s. An effort to revive the theater kicked off in the mid-2010s. A plan was agreed to restore the theater and build a new headquarters for Texas Public Radio in the building immediately adjacent to it. TPR moved into its significantly improved facility in March 2020. Renovations on the theater were paused in March 2020, due to a funding shortfall attributed to the pandemic. About $27 million is needed to finish the second and final phases of the theater project.

To fill that gap, the City of San Antonio and Bexar County are both providing $7 million in funding with the remaining $12 million coming from state and federal historic tax credits. Bexar County Commissioners are expecting to take up the issue later this month.

The city will use $7 million from its Houston Street TIRZ to fund the project. A TIRZ, or Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, is a designated area where a portion of city revenue from property taxes are used to fund special projects. The Houston Street TIRZ has been used to fund projects in Main Plaza, the Maverick Building and others.

Pete Cortez, a board member of the Alameda Theater Conservancy, told council members the theatre is a historic and cultural asset.

“Although it has been dark for almost 40 years, it remains a symbol of community in our city — a place where accessibility, inclusivity and inclusivity are at the heart of the elemental and nurturing forces in its restoration,” he said. “ Once finished, the Alameda will once again be the largest theater dedicated to showcasing the Latino American multicultural story.”

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When it opened the theater was a Mexican-American entertainment venue and was unsegregated. It featured movies of Mexican cinema and live performances from acts like Vicente Fernandez and Cantinflas. After it closed in the late 1980s, The City of San Antonio acquired the theater property in 1994.

District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval frequently visited the Alameda Theater as a child when her family moved to San Antonio in the 1970s. She said with many marquee theaters disappearing through the years, this is a chance to preserve history, especially that of Latinos.

“This is our opportunity to make good on what we lost in the mistakes that we made in the 1950s, and when all those theaters went away,” she said. “What it also took with it was the jobs, the entertainment and the culture that the Mexican American community had here in San Antonio and deprived them of that. So, I am really thrilled to see how this will integrate and guarantee Latino artistic presence in San Antonio.”

Bexar County and the City of San Antonio have previously provided about $9 million each to the Alameda Theater Project in 2017. A portion of that was used to fund the creation of the current headquarters of Texas Public Radio which is connected to the Alameda theater — TPR contributed $5 million to the initial project for its headquarters.

As part of its decision on Thursday, the city council also approved $400,000 from the TIRZ to “fund ongoing environmental monitoring and remediation required on the site.”

Renovations on the theater are expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

A disclosure: TPR’s President & CEO, Joyce Slocum, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Alameda Theater Conservancy. TPR’s Headquarters building is immediately adjacent to the Alameda Theater, and the two share some resources, such as a freight elevator.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules