In a recent column, I tried to tease apart the meaning and purpose of an urban waterway by exploring the evolution of the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River. Is it a drainage system, a public space, or a natural habitat? In the end it fulfills all these purposes, albeit imperfectly.
Now San Antonio faces a similar debate about the meaning and purpose of its most iconic building and the surrounding area. The Alamo Plaza Restoration Project has published a plan to transform Alamo Plaza into a glitzy historical education center. Not everyone’s impressed. The Express-News ran a skeptical quote from a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, pointing out that “the Alamo is not a museum. It’s a shrine.”
Meanwhile, a third camp is forming to defend the use of the Alamo grounds as a public space that would attract locals. The public face of this group is Phillip Myrick from the Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a New York-based organization which has had its hands in a number of urban revitalization projects from Main Plaza to The Pearl Brewery, and is conducting a series of placemaking workshops with City staff.