Where I Live: From Blue Star to South End Lofts

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South End Lofts, as seen from West Peden Alley. Photo by Adrian Ramirez.

Itʼs not just anywhere where one can wake up to a cork ceiling that was, decades ago, used to keep meat carcasses from spoiling. Sleepy-eyed, I would step from my bed onto the unpolished concrete floor, pass by the white, uneven concrete walls, and walk into the kitchen to make myself a few cups of coffee. So began my day at Blue Star Lofts.

This former meat freezer would have been a hard sell for the most talented of real estate agents anywhere else. No dishwasher: check. No storage: check. This place forced me to get creative (and quick to wash dishes). But this place is located at Blue Star, what many consider the epicenter of creativity in San Antonio. The loftʼs amenities, or lack thereof, were an afterthought when the culture of the area is a marriage of art, food, and elixirs. I couldnʼt have been happier.

A model loft apartment in Blue Star Lofts. Photo courtesy of Robey Architecture.

A model Blue Star Loft aparment. Photo courtesy of Robey Architecture.

Appalled at what I paid in rent, friends from other neighborhoods never understood my “quality of life” rationalization until they visited and saw that on any given night, I could step outside of my apartment and walk twenty feet to 1919 and Joe Blueʼs to meet up with neighbors, “Cheers“-style.

Anali Barrera in her "zen spot," the rock steps crossing the San Antonio River. Courtesy photo.

Anali Barrera in her “zen spot,” a rock bridge on the San Antonio River. Courtesy photo.

Artists, musicians, architects, oil-and-gas guys; my neighbors were an interesting concoction of people.

Sometimes on the walk over, I could make a pit stop at Cinnabar for an art exhibit, usually running into friends and following up with dinner, a decision usually difficult to make given the plethora of area restaurants (Liberty Bar, La Tuna, Blue Star Brewery, Tito’s, Hot Joy, and more).

Iʼd take my skeptical friends to my Zen spot on the river: a rocky makeshift bridge where Iʼd go sit and think, surrounded by water and ducks. Dog-walking, bicycles, a walk to Halcyon for coffee. As a friend of mine said, “I feel like Iʼve arrived to the mothership.” Quality of life, indeed.

Blue Star Lofts exterior. Photo courtesy of Robey Architecture.

Blue Star Lofts exterior. Photo courtesy of Robey Architecture.

So when my sister told me she was leaving downtownʼs Vistana and found a two-bedroom condo at South End Lofts – two blocks down from Blue Star (see top image) – I decided to make the move, as weʼd been talking about living together and Iʼd be a mere two blocks away from “the mothership.”

A scale in Anali Barrera's loft dates back to the building's occupation by a lumber distributor. Photo by Anali Barrera.

A scale in Anali Barrera’s South End Loft dates back to the building’s occupation by a lumber distributor. Photo by Anali Barrera.

Also in keeping with the areaʼs reused spirit, South End Lofts was originally a chandelier parts manufacturer and a lumber company distribution center. Architects kept details particular to the original building, such as the massive scale in the middle of my living room that once weighed packages more than 1000 pounds; I now look at it as a sort of functional installation art piece. White, exposed brick walls, a dream kitchen (dishwasher included), concrete floors, and an open living space: Iʼm obsessed.

While an art gallery isnʼt 10 feet from my loft anymore, life is much the same. I still get on my bike on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and ride to Feast for some “Eggs from Hell” and mimosas, only to continue the day surrounded by dogs and fellow beer lovers at The Friendly Spot.

First ThursdayFirst Friday, and Second Saturday are still almost literally outside my door, whereas they were literally outside my door at Blue Star. The lifestyle changes are miniscule. The most important thing is that my neighborhood and culture never changed. And that is exactly why Iʼve never been happier.

*Featured/top image: South End Lofts, as seen from West Peden Alley. Photo by Adrian Ramirez.

Related stories:

Where I Live: Government Hill

Where I Live: Monticello Park/Deco District

Where I Live: Towers at the Majestic

Where I Live: Lone Star / South Flores Arts District

Where I Live: MidTown

Where I Live: Southtown

13 thoughts on “Where I Live: From Blue Star to South End Lofts

  1. This piece is so true. After living in Alamo Heights my entire life, my move downtown has given me the experience of feeling like I’m on vacation everyday.
    Truly a fantastic decision!

  2. My Fiancee and I LOVE living downtown. We have been enjoying ourselves since day 1, and have never regretted the decision! So nice to walk to events, party, and walk right back home. And if we do not feel like walking, then the handy San Antonio B-Cycle is always available 🙂

  3. I live downtown after many years in suburban Sonterra. I have not regretted my decision for 1 minute! I work out North and can’t wait to get back downtown once my day is over!

  4. Who would have thought? If you have more money to spend on rent, you have an improved quality of life.

  5. Love downtown and thanks for the shout out to Cinnabar! I’ll keep trying to contribute to the quality of life

  6. Jens Rushing, while that may be true in many other neighborhoods in San Antonio or just about anywhere else, it’s not the case here at all. There’s plenty of mixed-income housing in the area, such as at Cevallos Lofts. You’ll find people from all walks of life in many, if not most, parts of the neighborhood.

  7. Although I do find it pretty great that you refer to a building with rents *starting* at 1300/month as “mixed income”. What is that a mix of, upper-middle and upper-UPPER-middle class?

  8. They have government – assisted housing there and at Hemisfair…many efficiencies/back apts in the area, too. No trust fund necessary!

  9. Granted – though those units are actually almost impossible to get and have long wait lists. And I would argue that having a few government-assisted units isn’t really a substitute for development that grants everyone equal access to a neighborhood. It’s more like a lottery that gives a lucky few a pass through the gates.
    There are definitely poor people in the neighborhood, many of whom have been there for years, if not generations – and they are the people rapidly being priced out of this neighborhood. My landlady isn’t gonna be happy charging me $700/month for very long when places a block away and charging twice, thrice that and having no trouble finding tenants.

    This is just my reaction to your statement about your ‘appalling’ rent. I agree that Blue Star and Southtown in general are great places to live, and it’s interesting to observe how people readily and happily exchange actual capital for social capital. It’s instructive for developers, as well. But wouldn’t it be nice if this improved quality of life, this social capital, which after all is an intangible good made up of nothing else than good neighbors in a mininally good setting, we’re available to everyone, without the appalling rent?

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