Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Debate on future of the Alamo

Romo townhall

Photo Credit: Randy Lopez

Concerned citizens gathered at the UTSA Downtown Campus Thursday, Sept. 19 for a town hall meeting to discuss the future of Alamo Plaza. The town hall meeting featured a panel of distinguished guests including the Mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro; San Antonio Conservation Society President Sue Ann Pemberton; Historian Gary Foreman and Alamo Plaza businessman Davis Phillips.

UTSA President Ricardo Romo gave the introductory speech with a brief background on the history of the Alamo and the important role it plays in San Antonio today. The town hall meeting was held in response to the growing concern from San Antonio citizens and historians regarding the future of Alamo plaza. Some citizens at the town hall claim that the businesses located within Alamo Plaza take away from the historical significance of the Alamo. Citizens voiced their opinions, suggesting that the businesses, many of which are chain stores and gift shops, simply leave Alamo plaza and find a lease elsewhere in San Antonio.

Phillips, a panel speaker representing the businesses on Alamo Plaza, said, “I respect your opinion that the businesses are carnival or inappropriate… I would also suggest, respectfully, that there are millions of people every year who don’t agree with that; they view those businesses as family entertainment options and a chance to make memories with their families… if the people didn’t want it, we (businesses) wouldn’t be there.”

Furthermore,Phillips pointed out that if the businesses were to be moved, they would not perform at the level that they are currently operating at Alamo Plaza. Phillips, president and CEO of Phillips Entertainment, also said that his businesses pay “$57,000 a month in rent” and other businesses such as art galleries or sidewalk cafes would simply not be able to afford the rent to survive inside the plaza.

Phillips asked, “Are you ok with some form of government seizing private property because they don’t feel that it’s appropriate that some people feel that way… what happens when they come to your home or your business?”

Plans for reconstruction to the Alamo itself were discussed as well.

Leading the discussion on plans for renovation and reconstruction was San Antonio Conservation Society President Sue Ann Pemberton. Pemberton explained that the difficulty with renovation resides in the many different time periods the Alamo experienced and keeping true to the construction of the building during each time period. Pemberton stated the difficulty lies primarily in picking a time period and basing a renovation plan on that particular period.

Mayor Castro responded saying, “We will come up with a way to appoint a committee that is balanced and represents diverse perspectives… at the end of the day we want to get to action steps not to be paralyzed because everyone has their own perspective.”

In order to fund a renovation, the city of San Antonio appropriated over $1 million in a voter-approved bond towards Alamo plaza last year. Pemberton described the one million dollars as “not going to cut it, but it does give us direction and an opportunity to move forward”.

Emotions ran high during the forum as many citizens expressed how deeply they were concerned with the future of Alamo Plaza and wanted a plan of action from the mayor and city council. Mayor Castro summarized the meeting saying that “it was a very productive meeting in terms of getting the diverse range of opinions that exist about what should happen at the Alamo. The community vision that we come up with is going to be informed by many different opinions and, in that sense, it was very productive.”

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