BACKGROUND: In March 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the award of a Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant to the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA). The project’s purpose was to create a Transformation Plan for San Antonio’s historically grand but currently impoverished Eastside that includes a variety of achievable, effective reinvestment and redevelopment strategies. The traditional heart of the Eastside is Wheatley Courts, a family community built in the 1940’s. The 248-unit complex is one of the oldest public housing developments in San Antonio and SAHA’s vision, articulated in the Transformation Plan and informed by resident feedback received during 12 months of planning and listening, is to redevelop Wheatley Courts and use it as a catalyst for restoring the larger Eastside community to being a neighborhood of choice.
COMMUNITY NEEDS: San Antonio’s Eastside has been in a state of decline for decades. Like many American inner city neighborhoods, too many families and amenities have moved to the suburbs and the residents who remain finding themselves in a blighted, deteriorating, often unsafe area; though these neighborhoods contain 1% of San Antonio’s population, 9.2% of all criminal offenses occur there. Despite recent growth in small businesses in the area, residents cite lack of access to health care, limited police presence, escalating criminal activity and drug use, insufficient sidewalks and exterior lighting, no green space or playgrounds and inadequate affordable housing as daily challenges.
TAKING A STEP FORWARD: In April 2012, SAHA applied for a Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant to create and employ a Transformation Plan for San Antonio’s Eastside (the area reflected in the map to the right). The boundaries are I35 to the north, MLK Blvd. to the south, New Braunfels to the west and the Rail to the east. This effort will be built from and will align with: a) existing infrastructure investments by the City of San Antonio; b) revitalization activities of the Eastside Promise Neighborhood (EPN) initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, led by the United Way and focused on school reform and family strengthening; and c) new safety initiatives made possible by Byrne Act criminal justice funding available to Promise Neighborhood grantees. The Transformation Plan includes: high-quality, energy efficient multi-family housing (public, affordable and market rate); an integrated Education Corridor along a line connecting Washington Elementary School with St. Philip’s College; new employment and small business opportunities facilitated by a partnership with San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside; new health resources, including the expanded presence of the City’s Metropolitan Health Department Clinics and Programs; and, safety improvements provided by SAHA in conjunction with the San Antonio Police Department
GRANT DETAILS: SAHA is requesting a five-year, $30 million Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to redevelop existing public housing in the Wheatley Courts.
In addition, SAHA seeks to revitalize San Antonio’s Eastside Choice Neighborhood into a walkable, safe, compact, mixed used, pedestrian friendly community of opportunity containing a wide range of amenities. SAHA’s goals for the master planned neighborhood are to:
- Increase park space;
- Implement Byrne Act-funded crime prevention and safety-enhancing activities in partnership with EPN;
- Establish community gardens and produce a food co-op;
- Coordinate placement of a multi-modal transit hub to link Choice neighborhood residents with anchor institutions and employment centers;
- On-site Health Clinic
- Construct a community center that serves as a focal point for youth, seniors, arts, neighborhood beautification and community engagement.
The Transformation Plan builds from existing assets, e.g., microloans by San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside for new business starts; internal and external workforce development training and adult education; proximity to two major employment centers (Fort Sam Houston and downtown); and, significant investments by the City in the target area. The Eastside Choice Neighborhood is aligned with the Eastside Promise Neighborhood, SA2020 (a citywide strategic planning process), and the Eastside Reinvestment Summit organized by a City Councilwoman Taylor and Mayor Julian Castro.
Positive outcomes for Wheatley property residents will be achieved through on-site case management providing a range of needed services and backed by a network of SAHA and community service providers. In response to community needs and residents’ interests in obtaining employment, a particular emphasis will be on expanding job readiness, training and placement programs through SAHA’s Moving to Work Program, Goodwill Industries’ Good Careers Academy, and St. Philips College.
Improved access to health care and services aimed at improving residents’ health will occur through expansion of a Metro Health clinic, better connection to the Frank Bryant Health Center, and programmed green spaces around the neighborhood. A key partner to the Eastside Choice Neighborhood Initiative and sister grant is United Way’s Eastside Promise Neighborhood, which will implement cradle to college/career programs for children, youth and adults.
Urban Strategies case management team will coordinate closely with the EPN team to ensure that family supports enhance comprehensive educational efforts and create a community of Choice. Public safety will be improved by more consistent, positive communication between law enforcement and residents
The aggregation of these new, enhanced and expanded resources, augmented by the area’s proximity to downtown and major employment centers, will trigger a resurgence of the area’s popularity for families and individuals of all ages. The longest-term result will be an Eastside community whose assets are owned and managed by its residents long after Choice is gone.
Antioch Missionary Baptist Church
Antioch Community Transformation Network (ACTN)
Boys and Girls Club
HIS Bridge Builders
St. Philips College
San Antonio Independent School District
United Way – Eastside Promise Neighborhood
SAHA Community Development Initiatives
SPURS Sports and Entertainment
San Antonio Housing Authority
Neighborhood Housing Services
McCormack Baron Salazar
Boys and Girls Clubs
City of San Antonio
City Council Woman Taylor – Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funds, Good Samaritan City Bonds, Walter Streets Drainage Bonds
San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside (SAGE)
VIA Metropolitan Transit
Youth Builders Foundation
Straight Line Management
University of the Incarnate Word Eye Clinic