In an attempt to begin to reactivate Guadalupe Plaza on the near West Side, which has had a fence surrounding it since 2016, the city and a nonprofit contracted to oversee the public space have opened it up once more from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Also, the city will begin to host movie nights at the plaza starting Oct. 12 with a screening of “Selena.”
The efforts are short-term solutions while the city continues to gather community input, which began with a public meeting in late August, for a more permanent plan that the city hopes to reach in December.
However, many of the more than 100 who attended a public meeting Tuesday night on the future of the plaza put city officials on the spot, asking why a chain-link fence, which has surrounded the plaza since August 2016, is still up.
The second meeting on the future of the Guadalupe Plaza on the near West Side on Tuesday night produced a constant dialogue that was sometimes heated among the more than 100 community members who attended.
The meeting, hosted by the city of San Antonio, was held on the plaza’s theater space, as attendees shared their personal history with the plaza.
Movies begin at 8 p.m. at Guadalupe Plaza, 1327 Guadalupe St.
» Oct. 12, “Selena”
» Oct. 26, “Coraline”
» Nov. 2, “Corpse Bride”
» Nov. 16, “Black Panther”
» Dec. 7, “Instructions Not Included”
» Dec. 21, “The Polar Express”
The fence was erected by the nonprofit Avenida Guadalupe Association, which holds the lease on the plaza, and six other city-owned properties in the vicinity, through 2029.
The fencing was first put up by AGA in 2016 as a temporary measure for a Diez y Seis de Septembre event, but stayed up to the keep out heroin addicts who would frequent the plaza, said Gabriel Velasquez, the association’s executive director.
“The heroin situation was off the chart,” Velasquez said.
In May 2017, the association was granted a certificate of appropriateness by the city to surround the plaza with a fence, even though the fence went up nine months prior. Some in the audience, mainly members of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, wondered why the fence is still up, considering the fact that the certificate expired four months ago in May.
“It is devastating that the solution to criminal activity is a fence,” said Sarah Gould, a local historian who was recently tapped to develop the Westside Community Museum, a project scheduled to open next year in the old Ruben’s Icehouse at Guadalupe and South Colorado streets, a stone’s throw from the plaza.
“There has to be a design solution that doesn’t make the community feel like criminals,” Gould said.
Veronica Garcia, interim assistant director of the Center City Development and Operations Department (CCDO), said the fence remains up because there was never a community input process, which the city is now in the middle of. The meetings so far, she says, have been inconclusive in terms of an agreement on the fence, and the plaza’s hours of operation.
For fiscal year 2019, the city provided the AGA, which began leasing the plaza in 2009, with $142,000 to help pay for salaries related to the management and maintenance of the plaza. Also included in the upcoming budget is $100,000 for programming and security, which the CCDO will manage.
The city does not charge the AGA rent on the lease.
In August 2017, the City Council awarded $304,500 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds for “plaza facility improvements,” which can include a fence, Garcia told attendees. On Sept. 30, the contract was renewed for another 90 days, and those funds will be used for whatever solution the community meetings produce, she said.
The plaza remains open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, but can be closed for private events.
Two more meetings are scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Oct. 29 and Dec. 4, the locations of which have not been determined.