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City Renovation Plans For Historic Alameda Theater May Include Texas Public Radio

Eileen Pace
Texas Public Radio

As early as next year, the City of San Antonio could begin a major renovation of the historic Alameda Theater located downtown.

The Alameda, built in 1949, was once the largest theater for Spanish-language performing arts in the United States.  It has been mostly vacant for several decades but was purchased by the city in 1994.  City plans call for reopening the Alameda as a Latino-focused performing arts venue.

Assistant City Manager Lori Houston told council members that the renovation includes construction of a large stage and up to 1,500 seats.

“The way performances are done today is a little bit different, so we’ve talked about doing a thrust stage where audiences can have a more intimate setting when they’re watching a performance. The theater has great bones.  We really need to focus on that finish out to include also improving the stage, doing better seating, and also restoring the art amenities that are already in there.”

The Alameda Theater sits at Houston and Cameron streets in an area designated as La Zona Cultural. District 1 City Councilman Roberto Trevino says this is the right time to make the Alameda project work.

“It’s an important piece to our history, to the fabric of our city, and of course it is literally going to be in the heart of so much activity,” Trevino said.

The plan includes 35,000 square feet of space in the stage house behind the theater where Texas Public Radio hopes to relocate its headquarters.

In a statement, TPR President and CEO Joyce Slocum said the station is very pleased with the council enthusiasm for the project. 

“We have great partners with whom we’ve worked closely to bring the project to this juncture, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to make the vision a reality,” Slocum said.

The cost of restoring the theater is about $26 million.  Texas Public Radio plans to raise $5 million of that.  Other funding would come from state and federal tax credits and the Houston Street Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone.

District 9 Councilman Joe Krier questioned the availability of some of the financing for the project and asked city staff to provide more information.

“There have been other efforts to restore the Alameda that didn’t work out quite as well as they had hoped they would,” Krier said.

Parties involved have hired Michael Kaiser of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management to evaluate how best to complete the restoration.

Kaiser says the Alameda could be the leading Latino theater in America.

“I think of a model of the Apollo Theater in New York.  And what the Apollo Theater has been for the African American community, the Alameda can be for the Latino community in America- the leading place to see great performances that arise from this community and from elsewhere.”

Council members are expected to vote on the renovation plan in June. If they approve it, a new non-profit would be created to manage the theater and provide space for different arts organizations.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules
Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.