AlamedaTheaterBasic

Thanks to an agreement among the city of San Antonio, Bexar County, Alameda Theater Conservancy and Texas Public Radio, the famed Alameda Theater will be restored.

The project calls for Texas Public Radio to relocate from the South Texas Medical Center area to a new backstage area in the downtown theater, while the performance portion will accommodate live presentations and special events.

“We’re really excited about the plans,” said Joyce Slocum, TPR’s president and CEO.

The City Council approved the funding agreement Aug. 31.

The $23 million restoration budget includes money from the city, county, federal historic tax credits and the private sector, including a TPR fundraising campaign.

Community meetings were held in June and August at Centro de Artes to update stakeholders and neighbors on restoration plans.

Having opened in 1949 in a former Mexican consulate and Chamber of Commerce building, the Alameda was one of the biggest venues in the country dedicated to Spanish-language movies and the performing arts.

The city acquired the property in 1994, and the theater has since undergone stages of renovation. The city and the county have had partners in La Familia Cortez in the endeavor.

The Cortezes, who own five downtown restaurants including Mi Tierra, have long advocated a full revitalization of the theater, emphasizing its value to the Latino community and to Pan-American culture overall.

Earlier this year, project partners asked Michael Kaiser with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management to review the plan and make recommendations.

Kaiser said TPR would be a great fit for part of the building, while a new nonprofit conservancy can oversee Latino-focused programming for the rest of the venue.

“I was very excited about the possibility of renovating the theater and creating an important Latino presenting organization,” Kaiser said.

“The newer portion of the building would not be needed by a revived Alameda and could be used for TPR. Since so much art and entertainment is now being broadcast electronically, especially on the web, TPR seemed a smart partner for collaboration with the Alameda,” he added.

Kaiser noted that TPR’s operations would stay separate from those of the renewed Alameda.

Following Kaiser’s other suggestions, the latest concept creates a stage thrust into the audience. The audience seating would be reorganized into tiers that can hold theater seats or event tables and chairs.

TPR’s new headquarters would occupy 35,000 square feet of the 80,000-square-foot facility, including a ground-floor production space holding studios with windows. There also would be a 160-seat black box theater.

TPR has outgrown its existing headquarters on Datapoint Drive. The public radio station sought available spaces around downtown, then got involved in conversations about the Alameda.

While the station did not want to lease an entire theater, TPR acknowledged a need to preserve the Alameda.

“This is an iconic building in downtown. It has huge cultural value to many people who have memories of going there,” Slocum said.

TPR would use its bigger space to enhance its programming and community engagement, including town halls, panel discussions and appreciation events.

“I think there’s recognition that the Alameda shouldn’t be dark with nothing happening, but that it should always be activated and animated,” Slocum added.

Slocum said TPR would help to promote the Alameda’s programming: “We want to be a collaborative partner.”

The project partners formed a new nonprofit, the conservancy, to handle programming, ranging from live performing arts and film festivals to arts education and private events.

The city and county each will help fund the theater’s operations for the first few years, with contributions decreasing over time.

Project partners also see the Alameda as integral to Zona Cultural, a 2-year-old cultural district encompassing the theater, San Pedro Creek, Main Plaza, Market Square and other destinations in western downtown, where San Antonio originally developed.

San Pedro Creek is currently undergoing a massive improvement project. Local elected leaders look forward to completion of the restoration.

“I cannot stress enough how critical it is to preserve culturally significant spaces like the Alameda as they help tell the rich story of our city and serve as reminders and inspiration to future generations,” said District 1 City Councilman Roberto Treviño in a press release.

“Bexar County has invested heavily in keeping the flame of hope burning for this iconic facility,” added Bexar County Precinct 2 Commissioner Paul Elizondo.

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