Following months of drawings, technical analyses and meetings, the design for the much-anticipated restoration of the Alameda Theater has been finalized.
The city’s Historic and Design Review Commission voted Oct. 2 to grant a certificate of appropriateness for a project meant to revive the historic downtown performance venue.
“We’re all going to benefit from this beautiful theater once it is restored to its original glory,” said Pete Cortez, chief operating officer for La Familia Cortez Restaurants, during a public meeting about the Alameda Theater at 318 W. Houston St.
Planned exterior modifications include repairs to the stucco, marquee, canopy, terrazzo sidewalk and blade sign, and replacement of rooftop mechanical equipment.
If needed, there will be reconstruction of the terrazzo finishes at the eastern end of the West Houston sidewalk, and temporary removal and replacement of the existing fire escape and marquee canopy.
In addition, the existing storefront system and entry doors will be replaced to address accessibility deficiencies, as well as energy and safety codes.
Interior modifications will be more extensive, officials said. They include repairs to decorative finishes in the lobby and nearby stairs, expansion of the theater box office and ticketing areas, installation of a new elevator, and expansion of patron areas.
There also will be a restoration of decorative plaster and paint elements, and creation of standing lounge areas in the upper balcony.
Plans call for reconfiguration of the seating arrangement, which will reduce the number of seats from 2,400 to 1,000. In addition, the rear house space will be enlarged.
The overall conceptual design has not changed much since the city, consulting architects and engineers presented it to stakeholders and community members earlier this year.
Ben Lagatan with Washington, D.C.,-based OTJ Architects said 98 percent of the exterior will be maintained.
As for the inside, “We are putting forth a design that allows for a more modern appropriateness for the patrons of the theater,” he said. “We’re reorienting the orchestra-level seats, allowing for a more modern size … of seats and, on the balcony level, we are also allowing for a better-size aisle, so that patrons are more comfortable at the balcony.”
City staff did ask the project team to refine the design for the theater storefront, including the doors.
“The team has selected new door hardware that either matches or is compatible with the historic look and feel,” Scott Carpenter, principal of Seventh Generation Design, wrote to the city. “Overall, these changes will allow for patrons to experience the look and feel of the historic entrance to the theater, while ensuring their safety and comfort.”
A partnership between private and public sectors has been working to rehabilitate and revive the front portion of the theater into a multimedia performing-arts facility.
The Alameda was originally a movie theater, built in the postwar years, and gained fame as a crucial Mexican-American performing arts center.
The nonprofit Alameda Theater Conservancy now leases the theater portion of the building from the city and will oversee new programming.
Texas Public Radio has been retrofitting another portion of the structure to make it a new headquarters.
The theater restoration is estimated to cost more than $20 million, with most of the money coming from the city and Bexar County.
The project is also receiving financial support from TPR and from historic and market tax credits. La Familia Cortez Restaurants, the parent company of Mi Tierra and other nearby eateries, is a project partner, too.
Full restoration of the theater area is projected for early 2020 to May 2021.
While some community members are excited about a revived Alameda Theater, others have concerns about potential costs of program tickets and use of the venue by local performance groups.
City leaders see the theater’s restoration as part of a resurgence of cultural arts and commerce on the western edge of downtown.