A Local Millennial To Atlantic Cities: Next Visit to San Antonio, Dig a Little Deeper

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Downtown Kickball in the beautiful Hemisfair Park. Photo courtesy of Kevin McCullough.

Downtown Kickball in Hemisfair Park. Photo courtesy of Kevin McCullough.

Kevin McCulloughThe Atlantic Cities recently published an article entitled, “San Antonio’s Simple Appeal to Millennials: Diversity, Decent Jobs, and Cheap Living.” The article begins with the author, Nona Willis Aronowitz, and two San Antonio transplants enjoying a fajita meal at the River Walk, described as “the famously revitalized waterfront park dotted with restaurants.”

The interviewees enjoy San Antonio because of its less volatile job market and the low cost of living.  The article then states:

“Let’s get this out of the way: San Antonio is not cool. It’s not cute or charming, and it’s not cutting-edge or industrial.” She describes a simple life that is the compromise of Houston’s “formidable job machine” and Austin, the “tech center and hipster mecca of Texas.”

Members of the Awesome SA board and trustees pose for a photo after presenting Sarah Brooke Lyons and her 1005 Faces project with a $1,000 grant. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Members of the Awesome SA board and trustees pose for a photo after presenting Sarah Brooke Lyons and her 1005 Faces project with a $1,000 grant. The grant money was used to complete a mural, a photo of which was used in The Atlantic Cities article. C’mon, not even a little cute or charming? Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Aronowitz also speaks to a young, entry-level employee at University of Texas-San Antonio.  The subject jokes that San Antonio’s “dynamic works because young people here aren’t super ambitious— ‘I personally like the security of a steady paycheck.'” Aronowitz concludes that “Millennials in San Antonio value community and comfort, not glory.”

The author’s journey continues as she and a group go bar-hopping on St. Mary’s Street, where the author comes to the epiphany that Houston is different than “dirt-cheap” San Antonio because the “first bar sold $1 Tecates”.

“There are fancier places,” said Aronowitz’ host, referring to downtown cocktail bars or the polished establishments on the River Walk. “But they aren’t the only places, or even the coolest places.”

The final interview subject then describes the “traditional Latino expectations” in San Antonio which, according to the young woman, is starting a family early and working a minimum wage job – a trapping that she avoided by going to Planned Parenthood.

My Response:

Dear Nona,

I appreciate your visit to San Antonio.  I also respect the viewpoints of your interviewees.  Although I was initially excited about you featuring San Antonio in your series about “Where Millennials Can Make It Now,” my view has been slightly tempered after seeing why you consider San Antonio a destination for Millennials, simply because it’s cheap and laid-back.

I am not writing to discredit you, but rather I wanted to discuss my thoughts and opinions on your article to hopefully generate dialogue as well as to inspire the citizens of San Antonio and prospective residents. (Some text is hyperlinked, please click to find out more.)

To begin, I want to provide context around my perspective of San Antonio. I am a 25-year-old, upwardly mobile, marketing professional at H-E-B Grocery, the largest private company in Texas.  I take pride in working for them, as well as the work they do for this city where they are headquartered.

The Pearl Brewery complex, as seen from Midtown. Photo by Chrissy Breit.

The Pearl Brewery complex and Museum Reach of the River Walk, as seen from Midtown. Photo by Chrissy Breit.

I currently live in an apartment at The Can Plant at Pearl Brewery. The Pearl Brewery Complex is San Antonio’s crown jewel of mixed-use development – a former brewery converted to a community of more than 200 residential units, retail, and restaurants that host innumerable events.

The Can Plant is bristling with young professionals, and Pearl itself is host to a weekly Farmer’s Market, Echale (a live music series at Pearl Amphitheater) and recently hosted Meatopia, a conglomeration of 33 chefs from around the country who shared their dishes with us to the ambiance of an array of live, local music.

Young Professionals basking in the glow of Meatopia at Pearl. Photo courtesy Kevin McCullough.

Young Professionals basking in the glow of Meatopia at Pearl. Photo courtesy Kevin McCullough.

While the restaurants here tend to be more costly than our city’s ever expanding variety of food trucks – it’s hard to deny the diversity of our residents’ palettes.  A number of top notch restaurants reside in the area or within walking distance on Broadway, which is fitting considering The Culinary Institute of America is also at Pearl. The Blue Box at the Pearl is one of San Antonio’s finest cocktail bars, where my friends and I enjoy winding down after work with each other or to meet new people. The Brooklynite, another modern craft cocktail bar, is right down the road.

[Read More: The Rise of the Cocktail in a City on the Rise.]

Jeret Peńa, owner of Brooklynite. Photo by Steven Starnes.

Jeret Peńa, owner of Brooklynite. Photo by Steven Starnes.

If I had to describe San Antonio in a sentence:

San Antonio is a thriving cultural destination with an abundance of motivated restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, artists and Millennials looking to make a splash in our local community and the world.

I have lived elsewhere and have never met a friendlier and more inspiring group of people.

Just to make a few points about your article and the numerous offerings for Millennials in San Antonio:

(1) The River Walk is fantastic, without a doubt. However, that is a destination primarily for tourists. The aforementioned historic Pearl Brewery, Southtown, the Blue Star Complex, the Deco District, Mission Reach and Museum Reach are amazing communities of artists, musicians, professionals, entrepreneurs, and thriving cultural minds. These neighborhoods would each require their own articles to describe them.

[Some of which can be found within The Rivard Report’s “Where I Live” series by clicking here.]

(2) The Strip on St. Mary’s is great (where your tour guides took you for live music, street tacos and beer).  There are absolutely wonderful destinations there. In fact, Candlelight Café has some of the best brunch in town, not to mention bottomless mimosas – highly appealing to Millennials.

However, I can name many other things to do that represent our city besides concerts and bars. To name a few: Downtown Kickball, San Antonio Sports and Social Club, First Friday (a community-wide art, music and food festival in Southtown), Second Thursday at the McNay Art Museum and Second Friday at the San Antonio Museum of Art (which both feature new and exciting art, music and food), Something Monday social bike ride, The Witte Museum’s monthly events for Witte Society Members, etc.

Downtown Kickball in the beautiful Hemisfair Park. Photo courtesy of Kevin McCullough.

Downtown Kickball in the beautiful Hemisfair Park. Photo courtesy of Kevin McCullough.

These are all ways to get involved in the community. Besides these activities, a Millennial could enjoy simpler activities such as various trivia nights, slam poetry events, stand-up comedy, live music at Luna or Sam’s Burger Joint (or follow KRTU’s Jazz Calendar for events happening nightly all over town), a burger or fish taco made with locally-sourced ingredients at The Cove (featured on Food Network), to name a few.  And if you like country dancing, which I happen to, you can enjoy Cowboys Dance Hall, Thirsty Horse, Wild West or Midnight Rodeo.

Although I do not encourage wearing spurs when out dancing, we cannot forget watching our world class San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center, or at Alamo Street Eat Bar, a food-truck park in the heart of Southtown that often hires Slab Cinema to project the games on an inflatable screen.

Millenials enjoying opening night of the San Antonio Spurs 2013-2014 campaign. Photo courtesy Kevin McCullough

Millennials enjoying opening night of the San Antonio Spurs 2013-2014 campaign. Photo courtesy Kevin McCullough

(3) In Fall 2014, we will see the grand opening of the state-of-the-art Tobin Center for the Performing Arts opening on the banks of the San Antonio River.  This will be the new home of the San Antonio Symphony, San Antonio Opera and Ballet San Antonio as well as hosting educational experiences for nearly 100,000 children each year. I cannot express my level of excitement as this will complement the already established Majestic Theater as well as the many local theater arts companies composed of passionate participants.

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

An artistic rendering of The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, set to open in Fall 2014. Courtesy rendering.

(4) The Mission Reach section of the San Antonio River recently opened up to offer my friends and I access to kayaking, biking and hiking along its beautiful stretch of water, expanding the outdoor offerings of this city. For additional physical activities, free yoga is happening almost every night all over the city.  I recently learned that The Luxury, an outdoor restaurant, next to the San Antonio Museum of Art has free yoga every Friday, and I have participated in free yoga at Brackenridge Park on the Museum Reach.

I could go on and on, but to sum up:  We are more than a budget friendly, street taco destination with a few Planned Parenthoods, as your article may suggest.

In a way, this is a tale of two cities – really, there are as many tales of San Antonio as there are people. However, I think the tale you presented is not the one that many of my friends know and love. As a Millennial, I would not be excited to move to the city that you described. I most certainly would not present your view of San Antonio to friends in other cities – I would be embarrassed to take ownership of this less inaccurate description of my lifestyle.

I would be glad for myself and my friends to be your guide next time to experience the beauty and fun of the city we love and that I could never leave again (I made that mistake once, relocating to Dallas for a year). I would also gladly accept a tour of New York from you as I have yet to visit.

Sincerely,

Kevin McCullough

 

Kevin McCullough, 25, is a marketing professional for H-E-B, the largest private company in Texas.  He grew up in San Antonio and graduated from Texas A&M’s Mays Business School with a Master of Science Marketing degree. Contact him at kevmccullough1@gmail.com

 

Related Stories:

San Antonio: Cool and Cultured, and Secure Enough to Say So Politely

Meatopia: San Antonio Worships A Weekend of Meat

From the City of Brotherly Love to Falling in Love With The Alamo City

Why I’m Stubborn About San Antonio

The Water Line: A New Blog About What Defines Us in San Antonio

Where I Live: Monticello Park/Deco District

Where I Live: A Carved-out Local Music Scene

SA2020 Then and Now: Brainstorm to Reality to Report Card

People Want a Park: San Antonio’s Passion for Hemisfair

Where We Live: Two Perspectives from the Pearl

Downtown Kickball: Why Not?

San Antonio Celebrates the River’s Mission Reach

Mission Reach and Museum Reach on the San Antonio River: There’s an App for that

 

15 thoughts on “A Local Millennial To Atlantic Cities: Next Visit to San Antonio, Dig a Little Deeper

  1. Great article, Kevin! I think many people focus far too much on the “horseshoe” and miss all the great development and evolution downtown, as well as midtown and southtown, have seen over the last 10 years or so. When I was younger, I wanted to leave SA for many of the same reasons Nona Willis Aronowitz enjoys the city. Since moving downtown about three years ago, the desire to leave, simply for quality of life regardless of employment, has diminished significantly. In fact, I find myself participating more in the community and promoting San Antonio (downtown, specifically) far beyond what I would have even imagined just 3-5 years ago.

    While Austin might still be “cooler” for the time being, I see that changing for both cities. Austin’s fame, as well as major university presence, has really changed the levels of “weirdness” since the time I was at school there in the mid-late 90’s. Austin has really transformed into a more cosmopolitan city, while still great, it has lost much of the uniqueness and charm the city has been known for for so many years.

    San Antonio, on the other hand, is really coming into its own. Long the bastion of empty strip centers, cheap eats/drinks, chain everything, and general unabashed mediocrity, San Antonio has really stepped up in developing the city’s core and developing uniqueness in the different neighborhoods and attractions.

    About 12 years ago, I was a department manager for H-E-B (where I’m still employed and work with the author), when I was introduced to the then-burgeoning Blue Star and First Friday. For the first time, I really saw the potential San Antonio, and downtown, possessed. While attending my first First Friday, I felt like I was in the Austin I lived in when I was in school. Over the years, I have seen downtown develop hoping for it to become as rich and vibrant as other great cities, including Austin. After Pearl was developed (which I, personally, think is one of the single moments we can point to as “critical” to the development we see now), living and entertainment development exploded, and I was compelled by friends and my own experience to move to the city’s core. For me, it has been an experience that has changed my life and I think I found a city, and more importantly, a downtown where I want live for many years to come.

  2. Thanks so much for posting! It’s so important for us to change our brand and share with others how wonderful San Antonio is!! Please tweet directly to the Atlantic author @nona and invite her back for a second visit!!

  3. Thanks so much for posting! It’s so important for us to change our brand and share with others how wonderful San Antonio is!! Please tweet directly to the Atlantic author @nona and invite her back for a second visit!!

  4. I agree completely with the two Millennials that wrote in response to the Atlantic Cities article about San Antonio. A young professional myself; I came here straight out of college to get away from *gasp* Austin. Honestly, at first I was skeptical about moving to San Antonio it did seem to be a much more laid back city where everyone came to raise a family; at the time, from the outside looking in, it didn’t seem to have a thriving young professional scene; but, at the same time I was extremely happy to be getting away from the “cool” Austin, with its gridlocked traffic (now ranked one of the highest in the US, with the likes of LA and New York,) jam-packed food and nightlife scene, and high cost of living. Don’t get me wrong I loved every minute I spent at school in Austin, and there is so much for the city to offer, but “cool” is all a matter of opinion, and once you see everything that San Antonio has to offer, from its up and coming food and cocktail scene, to its well established music scene, to its beautiful parks and trails, it rivals Austin, both in culture, and in its recreational activities. Having live in the downtown San Antonio for the last five and a half years, it has been amazing to see the transformation that has happened in such a short time. I think that most people that are criticizing this city are still looking at the San Antonio from a decade, or two decades ago. From everything I see, and from talking with all my friends from Austin, Houston, Dallas, and across the country this is now THE “cool” city to be moving to, especially if you’re planning to stay in Texas; and that is why many people are packing up and moving from our weird neighbor to the north and coming down to San Antonio, it’s not just for the low cost of living, and arguing the point shows that you really don’t understand this city. We are not a city of people just happy to have a “stable” paycheck; we are a thriving city with entrepreneurs in the visual and culinary arts; in the medical and construction industries; from tech start ups to financial institutions; and from energy exploration to Military City USA. San Antonio has as diverse of industries as it does its people. To categorize the city by anyone of them would never tell the complex history and complex future that San Antonio sees for itself.

  5. Very well said. We don’t want people like the author to move here anyway! You didn’t have time to mention our progress with the linear parks, the bike rental system, and so much more. Plus, We don’t have state income taxes!

  6. That lady is from NYC. They are proud of everything and will constantly compare and contrast with it leading to a “NYC is better” slant. Even their pollution is better so they say.

  7. I think residents of a great city shouldn’t be so defensive. Every place is a mix of better and worse qualities, and to deny that seems insecure.

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