SAGE: Perception biggest challenge to east side development

San Antonio Growth for the Greater Eastside meets with developers to discuss opportunities, challenges

A panel of developers met with San Antonio Growth for the Greater Eastside -- or SAGE -- to have an honest discussion about the opportunities and challenges of the area.

Jackie Gorman, executive director of SAGE, said the biggest struggle for the east side is still image.

"The biggest one that comes up all the time is perception, the perception that the community has of the east side," Gorman said.

She said people often see the area as contentious and not open to growth.

Shokare Nakpodia runs the Mighty Group, a marketing company in the old Friedrich Refrigeration building on Commerce Street. He pointed out several misconceptions, such as the area's safety. He said crime isn't the problem that people assume it is.

Nakpodia said another misconception is that there aren't enough people to support growth.

"Every time something else opens here, there's hardly any business here that can complain of lack of support," he said.

Bringing more people to the east side was still one of the top topics for developers who spoke at the quarterly SAGE meeting.

Gorman said the focus is currently on smaller housing developments.

Nakpodia said there have already been several large-scale developments in the area, and what it lacks is street-level growth.

"Smaller restaurants, smaller mom-and-pop shops, you know, clothing stores," he said.

Gorman hopes that can be done while maintaining the architectural history in the area.

"What I call 'adaptive re-use.' Taking some old buildings that we're in today and using them for something totally different than they were intended, but still maintaining the architectural integrity," she said.

Community leaders hope each success on the east side will help other developers feel like it's a safe place to invest, thanks to the unique culture and room for growth.

For a list of recent stories Jenna Hiller has done, click here.