How East Side leaders are helping keep business in, crime out

New design plans to curb crime, improve streets, bring new housing developments

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - It's a reawakening of the New Braunfels corridor and the entire East Side. Residents are fighting crime with community commitment and creativity, neighborhoods are making daily improvements and a community leader is showing how they're doing it by coming together.

A growing East Side confidence has been fueled by action.

"The East Side is open for business," said Akeem Brown, director of operations for San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside, or SAGE.

Take the Hayes Food Mart, for example, where there was a double shooting last month. Neighbors admit the crime is high. While police increase the presence of the Violent Crime Task Force, SAGE is also stepping in with a different plan.

"The cameras and lighting went in a few weeks ago. The roofing will begin in a few weeks, the fuel system went in about four months ago," Brown said.

SAGE and the San Antonio Housing Authority have awarded grants for facade and safety updates to businesses like the Hayes Food Mart and Teresita's Mexican Restaurant across the street.

"The light will be shining bright on you. The cameras are there, and it's so cool because the actual footage is being sent directly to the police department," Brown said.

The main goal is to deter crime while keeping local stores in business. Brown said the community learned from the Handy Stop, which closed down after the city asked it to comply with multiple safety improvements.

"I think we didn’t get to them at the right time and we didn’t have the right approach. And I think we have the right approach with the Hayes Food Mart. We’re looking at what works. We learned from the Handy Stop, so we’re taking a collaborative approach to this," Brown said.

Another change on the list is street improvement. The East Side has already seen some much-needed sidewalk projects, and a $9 million item on an upcoming bond in the May election would fix sidewalks and streets on the New Braunfels corridor.

"Although we’re making great improvements to the business facilities across the strip, we have to make those basic infrastructure improvements. Young people are walking back and forth to school every day. We have senior citizens who are wheelchair-bound and they’re accessing the bus here every day," Brown said.

In the spirit of growth, on Friday morning, the East Side also celebrated the opening of a new housing development in the Dignowity Hill neighborhood.

"These are the first new homes like this that have been built on the East Side. These are two- and three-bedroom homes. They've been designed with families in mind, as well as young couples," said Charlie Turner, the project developer.

The three finished homes will soon expand to a 22-house community. Each costs about $200,000-$250,000, bringing a healthy mix of affordable and market-rate housing to the East Side.

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