Alamo Plaza in the future could look a whole lot different than it looks today, and the debate over what should be done to enhance the 'visitor experience' at the city's top tourist attraction begins with a top level 'conversation' set to take place tonight, 1200 WOAI news reports.
The Texas General Land Office has already begun to take some steps to uniquely change the Alamo, by adding historical archive displays and downplaying the gift shop which has been a part of the Alamo visit.
Now a group led by Mayor Castro, San Antonio Conservation Society President Sue Ann Pemberton, representatives of the GLO, historians, and others will begin a discussion of proposed significant changes to the appearance and the 'feel' of the Plaza.
"I think there are a lot of opportunities to interpret the Alamo site more effectively," Pemberton said.
The problem that historic preservationists and history purists have had with the Alamo for generations is the fact that the city, with all of its bustle and commercialism, grew up around the shrine, robbing it of not only its dignity, but its presence as a true battlefield. Other iconic American war sites, like the Gettysburg and Yorktown battlefields, have not had similar problems because they have continued to be in rural areas which can be more easily protected.
Pemberton says San Antonio could look to Europe for examples, because, for example, the classical Roman ruins are in the middle of the bustling modern city.
"You go to European cities, there is a McDonalds right next to the Pantheon," she said. "Its just that you don't notice it, it doesn't scream golden arches."
One thing that is certain to come of the latest exploration of the future of Alamo Plaza is a change in the role of the 'touristy' businesses which line the west side of Alamo Street. Pemberton says the Ripley's Believe it or Not, the Plaza Theater of Wax, and similar establishments detract from the dignity of the Alamo.
"We could gain control of some of the hawkers, who are trying to get your business inside, that sort of thing," she said.
Pemberton says the noise levels could also be brought down on Alamo Street, but she says she does not support radical proposals to demolish all of the buildings on the west side of Alamo Street and turn the entire area into a more accurate representation of the battlefield as it was in 1836. She points out that several of those buildings, most notably the old Woolworth Building at the corner of Alamo and Houston, are also historic structures.
Something else which will definitely be under consideration is the removal of the Cenotaph, the hideous granite monument which was erected in 1936 to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle.
"The Cenotaph has been controversial and debated for years, since its inception, ever since it was first placed there," she says.
The last time Alamo Plaza underwent even minor changes was in the 1990s when traffic which used to flow immediately in front of the Alamo, was blocked off in deference to the discovery of Native American graves which were located here, dating from the Alamo's days as Mission San Antonio de Valero.
The idea is to have whatever changes are agreed to at the Alamo completed by 2018, which will mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio.