Since its settlement in the early 1940s, the demographics of the Eastside Neighborhood have changed significantly. Originally a racially restricted neighborhood, African-Americans began moving into the area in the 1940s. During this time, businesses, churches, and schools were owned by and served the African-American population. Young adults first settled in Wheatley Courts, and then with economic success, they were able to purchase homes in the surrounding neighborhood, often hoping to preserve attendance both in local churches and schools. Many of the next generation, were themselves economically successful and left the area to attend college – few returned. What were once-owner-occupied homes become rentals, and residents, now mostly young Hispanic families moved in – attracted to the neighborhood because of its affordability and convenience. While most were financially stable, 49.2% of families lived below the federal poverty level.
Without the incentive of home ownership, many of these families did not invest in the property they rented. The institutions that once served the community struggled with decreased attendance (in the churches), fewer customers (in the businesses), and students with a lack of identity with the neighborhood (in the schools). Essentially, a ‘mis-match’ had developed between community members and the institutions present in the neighborhood.
It is nationally recognized as a city on the rise, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Eastside Neighborhood. The City of San Antonio passed a series of city ordinances intended to promote growth and development in the “heart of the City” including the Eastside that have been historically underserved. These ordinances, based on infill development policy, a series of reinvestment zones, and a renewed focus on community and economic development, are the touchstones of a new approach to revitalization.
In 2009, the City, SAHA, SAISD, and United Way agreed to pilot a place based project where the benefit of working together, weaving together resources and engaging an outside, independent research partner (Trinity University), could be demonstrated.