West Side residents concerned about VIA’s ‘affordable’ apartment, retail space

At least half of the units will be affordable for a family of four making $50,000 to $66,000.

SAN ANTONIO – People living on the West Side fear VIA Metropolitan Transit’s proposed mixed-use development could be more harmful than beneficial to bus riders.

The public transportation service said it plans to turn the old Scobey building, near downtown, into affordable apartments, offering retail and office space.

VIA is proposing to offer a mix of market-rate and below-market-rate rents. At least half of the units will be affordable for a family of four making $50,000 to $66,000.

However, the average household income in the 78207 zip code earns less than $26,000. The average VIA bus rider earns less than $25,000 a year.

Leticia Sanchez is a daily VIA rider and lifelong West Sider who knows the economic disparities in the area.

“We take the bus because we can’t afford a car. So if we can’t afford to buy a car, what makes them think that we’re going to be able to afford the apartment, the rent at the proposed rates that they have right now?” Sanchez said.

People living on the West Side don’t have an issue developing this building, but they believe that any developer using taxpayer dollars should build something that benefits the community.

“We’re in a food desert, so a grocery would be great, but a grocery that caters to our people’s needs,” Sanchez said.

VIA held an open house event in May, but it was canceled. Another meeting was supposed to be rescheduled in June.

“VIA is not listening. They are doing surveys. We have not heard about any of these surveys. The survey that they have for this Kobe project is online. A lot of our people don’t even have access to the internet,” Sanchez said.

We reached out to VIA by phone, and they issued a statement just before 6 p.m. Wednesday, shared below:

“VIA Metropolitan Transit has been an active member of the greater San Antonio community for 45 years, during which time our mission has been to provide transportation options that connect people to opportunity, support our community’s economy and enhance the overall quality of life in the region. We have always relied on the community to guide us in the pursuit of our mission to serve. We continue to serve residents of the West Side with robust bus and paratransit service, along with our investments such as Scobey-adjacent Centro Plaza at VIA Villa, our busiest transit hub with more than 1 million trips annually. We are listening to the concerns expressed by some members of the West Side, who worry how the redevelopment of the Scobey complex might impact the neighborhood. The Scobey complex has been vacant for decades, and our neighbors have noted that in its current state, the complex is a negative determinant to the surrounding area. They’ve repeatedly asked that we activate the property into a positive for the community. VIA has engaged with DreamOn, a West Side development firm that submitted a proposal to redevelop the property into a mixed-use facility that would include office space, retail and a 50-50 mix of affordable and market-rate residential units. VIA’s contribution to the project to date is the Scobey property. Our development partner is securing financing for the project. We believe the Scobey project, as a transit-oriented development, would benefit the community by providing affordable housing with direct access to one of VIA’s busiest transit centers – Centro Plaza – while also providing office space for VIA. We’re in the business of transit. VIA will not act as a landlord in any capacity on the Scobey project. We would be tenants in the commercial space. While we believe that the project would be an asset to the community, in part by adding additional housing capacity to the near-West Side, we don’t believe that our project would promote gentrification in the neighborhoods to our west, beyond active train tracks, the Bexar County jail and the Haven for Hope campus. While our development partner continues to do its due diligence before returning to VIA with a proposed binding development agreement, we will continue to listen to the community and work to address concerns as they arise.”

More on KSAT:

About the Authors: