Friday, September 12, 2014

The East Side Revitalization Effort is Working

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 5:24 PM

The East Side is getting some love, and you know what they say about love—it’s all you need. During a September 10 budget session, Director of Eastpoint and Real Estate Services Mike Etienne told City Council when efforts to revitalize what would become the Eastpoint Promise Zone started rolling in 2012, Sam Houston High School’s graduation rate was 46 percent. Now, it’s an 84 percent graduation rate, Etienne said, adding that crime has dropped 6.7 percent.
wheatley-courtsjpg
The Wheatley Courts in the EastPoint Promise Zone are scheduled to be demolished on September 25. (via) "That's because of the work that we are doing in Eastpoint," he said. Efforts are funded by four federal initiatives, the Choice Neighborhood grant, the Promise Neighborhood grant, the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program and Promise Zone designation. The Eastpoint neighborhood is one of five neighborhoods in the United States to receive the designation, but it’s still in a class of its own. “So Eastpoint is the only area in the entire country that received all three federal grants and a Promise Zone designation,” Etienne told the City Council. “Because of that, the eyes of the nation are upon us looking to see how we revitalize and improve quality of life so other cities can replicate.” President Barack Obama announced the Promise Zone designation in January. San Antonio was chosen because of its strategies that include cooperation between private and governmental organizations, along with faith-based and non-profit organizations. However, the grants and Promise Zone designation are just two pieces of revitalization process. “The third piece is to provide tax credits and incentives for businesses to move to the East Side. So the overall goal is for federal initiatives to be a catalyst that attract private investment, spur revitalization and improve quality of life, and, hopefully, replicated in other parts of the city.” Key strategies for revitalization include demolishing Wheatley Courts and building a mixed-income community; building new infill housing and rehabilitating vacant structures; improving education from the cradle to the grave; and improving public safety. And more than $170 million has been invested into the Eastpoint footprint, including funds from the City of San Antonio, Bexar County, the federal government and private investment, Etienne said. Here’s a quick breakdown on Etienne’s update to the City Council on those key strategies:
  • Wheatley Courts will be demolished on September 25. When completed in 2017, there will be 625 total units of new mixed-income housing, a senior housing complex, a community garden and a community school.
  • In education, graduation rates have drastically improved and absenteeism is down; early childhood education is increasing; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs were implemented at all levels of education from elementary to high school; half of Wheatley Middle School is being converted into a community school that would be open 24 hours a day; and an early college credit program has been established for high school students.
  • With crime down nearly 7 percent, community policing and neighborhood watch programs are increasing. Animal Control Services has impounded 731 stray dogs and Code Enforcement has worked 7,336 cases. As for vacant homes, 137 have been demolished. And both the City and County are funding the transformation of Menger Creek into a destination park. And with nearly 20 percent of residents being unemployed, an October job readiness workshop is scheduled that will be followed by a November job fair.
In short, Etienne wowed City Council with the presentation. However, he reminded council members that revitalization efforts are far from over. “In conclusion, we have some significant projects in the next couple of years,” Etienne said, thanking the City Council and Mayor Ivy Taylor, along with a host of public, private and non-profit organizations, for supporting and participating in efforts to revitalize Eastpoint.

Eastpoint Promise Zone


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