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San Antonio

Alamo Plaza Lease Agreements Between City and State At Risk With Cenotaph Staying Put

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Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
The Alamo just before Election Day

The plan to redevelop Alamo Plaza remains at a standstill after the Texas Historical Commission denied moving the cenotaph monument in September.

The San Antonio City Council received an update Thursday on what options are on the table moving forward. To change the plan now would require amending the potentially century-long lease agreement with the Texas General Land Office which owns the Alamo grounds.

The city entered into a lease agreement with the GLO in 2018 that will allow the state to use the city-owned Alamo Plaza. The lease lasts for 50 years with two 25-year renewal options.

“The Alamo Plan that was approved by the City Council cannot be implemented unless the timelines are adjusted,” said assistant city manager Lori Houston. “We also know that the partners are committed to the vision and guiding principles and to a continued cooperation, and the parties understand that any path forward will require a change to the lease and management agreement.”

It would also put a proposed museum in jeopardy, Houston told council members.

“The museum and the visitor’s center may not happen or will be delayed because the recaptured historic mission plaza was to serve as part of the museum and provide for outdoor space that accommodates diverse programming and the relocation of the Cenotaph was necessary to be able to do that,” she said.

There’s no schedule of when the City Council could take up any alterations. Some of which could affect when streets around Alamo Plaza are closed.

“We have to kind of look out how we modify the lease to reflect the street closure. That will more than likely not happen in the same timeline that was projected back in 2018 when we set out to do the project,” District 1 Councilman Roberto Treviño said. “We have to consider all of the different elements that are impacted.”

The Cenotaph was going to be moved about 500 feet towards the Menger Hotel from where it currently stands near the northern end of Alamo Plaza.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the next steps taken would be critical.

“I don’t want us to lose the forest for the trees here,” Nirenberg said during Thursday’s meeting. “Obviously, we have to modify our path forward because the plan — architecturally, design-wise, itself — had the Cenotaph moving. That’s not going to happen. But the plan itself and what we do with the Alamo Plaza is much bigger, much bigger than just the Cenotaph.”

The $450 million plan began to be developed more than six years ago. Its goal is to redefine the visitor experience at the Alamo and return much of the area to the footprint it had in 1836, during the Battle of the Alamo, and to tell the full story of its history, which dates back several hundred years

It had gone through multiple approvals including the San Antonio City Council, the city’s Historic Design and Review Commission and a signing ceremony between Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Texas General Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

But a component to move the Cenotaph monument, which depicts the fallen defenders of the Alamo, was ultimately shelved when the Texas Historical Commission voted 13-2 against moving the nearly 90-year-old monument. That placed the plan into uncertainty.

Council members John Courage and Clayton Perry have both disagreed with portions of the Alamo plan, being the only two dissenting votes in 2018. They renewed those concerns on Thursday

“I think we need to amend or get out of the GLO agreement so that we have the kind of control we need to protect the interest of San Antonio,” Courage said.

Courage said he believed that the project needed a new take with different heads at the helm.

“I think we need to change our City Council and city staff leadership on the management committee, executive committee, within the Alamo Advisory Group … fresh eyes, fresh voices are needed, and I think the greatest reason for that is we never came up with a Plan B.” Courage said with Perry’s agreement.

Councilman Treviño, who has been the lead council member overseeing the city’s portion of the plan, called Courage’s comments politics.

“I think those calls are just political in nature and don’t benefit the process in any way,” Treviño said.