Historically, San Antonio’s East Side isn’t particularly known for its pristine streets and trendy nightlife. Rather, some perceive it as a place beleaguered by socioeconomic plight and in need of revitalization—so much so that now the federal government is involved.
Earlier this year, the White House gave the area a boost by designating it one of five “Promise Zones” located throughout the country. The label grants the low-income community support in education, employment, access to affordable housing and improvements to public safety. East Side leaders developed a strategic plan showing how local businesses and community members will collaborate to invest in the neighborhood and, in return, they receive federal resources and tax credits to accomplish those goals.
Specifically, SA will focus on job creation and training, including a partnership with St. Philip’s College in areas like energy, health care, business support, aerospace/advanced manufacturing and construction. There’s also a push to increase enrollment in pre-K and early college programs, and to provide adult education opportunities. SA’s plan will additionally bolster and expand public safety, improve street lighting and demolish abandoned buildings.
Jackie Gorman, executive director of San Antonio for Growth on the East Side (SAGE) and an area resident, supports the designation and focused attention from the federal government to help develop and improve the community.
So, why does the area need the White House-sanctioned investment? “The East Side is San Antonio’s jewel—but it needs to be polished up,” says Gorman. “It’s been neglected for too long.”
“It’s a great place to live. There are great people, established neighborhoods, a lot of history, a lot of potential and property values are relatively low,” she says.
Gorman foresees the possibility of building new facilities, like community centers and non-retail businesses. In its infancy, the federal program is flexible, meaning if the community can dream it up, the feds vow to use their resources to make it a reality.
“The whole world is watching. We are a model; what we do here can be replicated all over the country,” says Gorman. “There are no hard and fast rules—if we can think of it, the federal government says they’ll do everything to make it happen.”
“We chose our neighborhood after Michele took an architecture class with a project focused on the Hays Street Bridge, which is now restored, has great views of the city (plus, the occasional yoga class) and is good for walking across to get to Broadway. ” —Michele and Fabien Jacob, artist/architect student and sommelier, Dignowity Hill residents