Our neighborhood is beautiful – that is, to me, the other half of the dynamic duo.I like to think that I see potential in a lot of things. This lovely conglomeration of homes, warehouses, and eclectic historical features is situated on the very near East Side of San Antonio, Texas – my favorite city of all-time and home since birth. This area can best be described as “in progress.” Though there is much good in it, there is much that many current residents still want to improve. So why did we choose this area, rather than an already-bustling area of town? The answer to that is complex, as humans usually are.
Naturally, as for all homeowners and home-builders, location is primary. Everything we do is in or near downtown SA. My significant other is the kind who would be perfectly happy in a 400 square foot efficiency in a mixed-use retail/living structure. I, on the other hand, demand a yard, a dog, and a place to produce crafts. Dignowity Hill lies right across I-37 from downtown proper, less than a mile from our oh-so-sacred Alamo, a little over a mile and a half from the landmark Tower of the Americas, and only 0.8 miles from one of my favorite places on earth – the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA). Once you get into the actual neighborhood, you might not remember that Dignowity is so near to our urban center. Yards are large, houses decently spaced, streets lined with flowering crepe myrtles. You get all that, and our master bedroom will have a fantastic view of the cityscape. The best of both worlds, you might say.
But of course, there are lots of choices for locations around downtown. There are apartments of varying square footage and fanciness throughout the city proper. The areas around Broadway and the lovely structures of the Pearl Brewery are scenic and bursting with life and real estate. It’s even possible to find lots with space for yards. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that Dignowity is not yet as popular as other up-and-coming areas. Less than a decade ago, most of the Pearl Brewery sat abandoned. The luxuriant Japanese Tea Gardens were dry hangouts for unsavory characters (and my high school friends and myself), and nary a local would be seen regularly downtown. Now, though, change is in the air. Third Brewsday offers craft beers, the Tea Gardens are served by a lovely tea house, and apartments are rising all around the Pearl and SAMA.
“But, you were supposed to tell us about price!” you say. Yes, a decade ago, it might have been perfectly affordable to move into the neighborhood near the Pearl. And yes, it is still in development. However, a piece of land in that neighborhood 4/5 the size of the one we found in Dignowity was slightly over 5 times the price. The cost of fixer-upper bungalows in the once sketch Southtown are creeping ever higher. And all of this ties in to…
Dignowity Hill may have some houses that seem to be collapsing on themselves. Certainly, there is vandalism. One of our favorite restaurants had its front windows smashed in, and the culprits have not been apprehended. However, it has the potential to be one of the most fun and interesting neighborhoods in San Antonio.
Firstly, most residents are fantastic. We’ve met most of our future neighbors, and are greeted warmly by many of them every time we visit. We attend neighborhood association meetings monthly, and have not only met interesting people, but listened to interesting dialogue go on about the neighborhood. We eat at Pancho’s and Gringo’s weekly, and are always treated royally by the family that owns it. (This is the above mentioned favorite restaurant.)
Besides the people, however, sits the neighborhood’s development. The San Antonio Express News ran an article recently about the businesses and entrepreneurs who are taking an interest in the Near East Side. Among these, one of the most well-known is the Alamo Brewery, which plans to build on and develop a lot next to the historic Hays Street Bridge. Also in the works are a rooftop wine bar, an outdoor beer and wine joint which will resemle the Friendly Spot in Southtown, and one development which is already visible – the introduction of 12 compact townhomes on a lot at the corner of Cherry and Pine Streets. While only the last of these is in the works as yet, the promise of interest in the neighborhood is what provides the security we need to move in – especially where finances are concerned. The possibility that this neighborhood may become something like a new Southtown someday means that, if we were to turn around and sell our new home someday, the value will have gone up. Now, that doesn’t mean we’re planning on selling (ever), but then, it’s always nicer to hedge your bets.
The last and smallest of our motivations for moving to this neighborhood was that it has a rich history. In fact, it is San Antonio’s first “suburb” (for all that it is now practically downtown). It was the province of Czech immigrants in the late 1800s. Boosted by the railroad, among other industries, the neighborhood grew and diversified, leaving all the beautiful, historic homes still found there. This is the kind of neighborhood we want to live in – one with a rich history, rather than populated with cookie-cutter mass-produced homes.
So this is my short insight on our complex thought process. We’re happy with our choice. We’ll see how the experiment turns out.