Land values soar in Denver Heights on SA's East Side

Some property land values skyrocket 900 percent over few years

By Marilyn Moritz - Reporter, Luis Cienfuegos - Photojournalist, Adam B. Higgins - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Susie Lopez isn't budging.

"Most of the neighbors have moved out already," she said. "These are new neighbors."

Lopez, a retired school bus driver, lives on the edge of Denver Heights in the craftsman-style bungalow she bought for $10,000 back when Richard Nixon was president. Now, it's valued at 16 times that.

"Neighbors, you hear them, 'I can't afford it no more,'" she said. 

Denver Heights is a neighborhood rich in history. It's now a mix of neatly, manicured lawns alongside boarded-up, neglected structures.

It's where property values are through the roof, soaring more than 160 percent in the past four years.   

Mostly, it's the land. For example, the land value for one small 1920s home on West Drexel Street was valued at $9,700 three years ago. Now, just the land, is valued at more than $94,000.

Why?

"The East Side has become a hot commodity," said Denver Heights Neighborhood Association President Aubrey Lewis.

Lewis points to new multifamily housing, restaurants and office buildings under construction.

"There's a lot of positive growth in the Denver Heights area," he said. "I think it was just time."

Location is also key.  

Denver Heights is located just across Interstate 37, literally the other side of the tracks from downtown.  The East Side land is a lot more affordable than prime downtown property, or much of Southtown, making it very attractive. 

In the shadow of the Alamodome, a chunk of acreage recently was rezoned to allow for apartments and a microbrewery.

Blocks away, vibrant artwork is splashed across what was once a pallet manufacturing site. It's where California investors are planning a large scale urban project featuring condos, creative office space and shops.

While some embrace renewed interest and economic development, not everyone is on board with dramatic change to the neighborhood. And it's not always about higher property taxes. Many here claim available exemptions. Instead, some take exception to the circling investors.

"They keep sending me letters. 'We want to buy your house. We want to buy your house,'" said longtime resident Manuel Hernandez. "I just throw them away."

As for Susie Lopez, she's embracing the changes.

"To me, it's a good thing," she said, adding that the offers to buy her out are intriguing.

"But then," she said, "I stop and think, 'Where am I going?'"

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