Gentrification Could Damage SA Missions World Heritage Bid

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
Mission Concepcion

San Antonio is in the running to become the first United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage site in Texas, and the 22nd in the entire country.

But according to a University of Texas at San Antonio expert in San Antonio Historic Preservation and Master Planning for Historic Sites, displacement of locals in the Mission Historic District because of gentrification could work against the Alamo City's bid for World Heritage status for the Missions.

"A key element of value is, in part, based on who residents are in San Antonio," William A. Dupont, director for the UTSA Center for Cultural Sustainability, said. "And this is a tricky thing to understand. In terms of world heritage, making somewhere truly outstanding, has a lot to do with people who live in and around existing historic places."

One example includes more than 200 residents at Mission Trails Mobile Home Park who were displaced after the trailer park they lived in was rezoned to make room for luxury apartments.

And according to Dupont, when people are displaced it reduces an area's authenticity, which is one point that UNESCO uses when granting World Heritage status.

"It's the reason why people go to any place. You want to go somewhere that has a local culture, and when you think about it in those terms and they are transported to another area, that local flavor leaves," Dupont said.

However, it's not too late for San Antonio to stem the tide and work toward incorporating more locals and local businesses in revitalization efforts in the Mission Historic District, which will preserve local authenticity, Dupont said.