Test story for design phase

by Ben OlivoJune 13, 2018

In short, the Heron will do its best to report and write about what’s happening downtown in terms of real estate, housing, urban development, and how those changes impact nearby communities. I didn’t always feel this way.

In 20??, I covered downtown for the San Antonio Express-News, and I remember when the residents of the Mission Trails mobile home park, near Mission Concepcion, were being displaced. And a prominent community activist implored me to cover it. And I said, no. It wasn’t happening downtown. Back then, I had very strict borders that defined downtown, and everything outside those borders was dead to me. And that was a mistake.

Because in the case of Mission Trails, 300 mostly poor families were displaced because of a housing policy, under then-Mayor Julián Castro, that was intended to jump-start housing downtown.

Six years later, it’s barely starting to happen. But back then, the policy’s boundaries, like tentacles, stretched wildly and nonsensically past what most people would consider to be downtown, hitting Mission Trails, which is south of Mission Concepcion, which is very clearly the South Side. That was an unfortunate example of a policy directly impacting one of San Antonio’s poorest communities. But the effects have also been indirect.

Luxury apartments that go up adjacent to neighborhoods, or right up against them, are having their impact, too, as property values rise and the people who have lived in these neighborhoods for decades soon have to find other parts of San Antonio in which to live. Factor in the fact that these new apartments and condos are luxury, by their very nature, because of where they’re located, and any reasonable person, anyone who is paying just a little attention, begins to ask about the morality of what’s going on. This policy that was meant to revitalize downtown . . . is it doing more harm than good?

It begs the question: What kind of city are we that we are willing to incentivize so many luxury apartments, as if the local leaders are pushing for this type of development, in contrast to San Antonio’s glaring inequality. The city’s skyline, a reminder of a place that many of these poorer residents can’t afford, can be seen in the distance from many of these neighborhoods, like constant reminders. Is it a downtown truly for everyone? And what about those who live next door to downtown who can’t necessarily afford some of the more upscale restaurants and amenities that are ubiquitous.

ben@saheron.com

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