EastPoint Launches Branding Strategy for Promise Zone

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A Dignowity Hill EastPoint banner on the corner of Nolan and Pine streets. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

A Dignowity Hill EastPoint banner on the corner of Nolan and Pine streets. The Dignowity Hill banner features the Hays Street Bridge. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

While driving around San Antonio's Eastside on Monday afternoon, Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) saw a community that has low expectations of itself. It's a problem he and his neighbors see almost every day, but on this particular Monday, near-Eastside residents also saw small signs of improvement. Specifically, banners of improvement.

The City's Office of EastPoint has installed 60 street pole banners across the footprint of the federally designated Promise Zone and will add 155 more over the coming months as part of the first phase of its branding strategy. Subsequent phases will involve more community events like outdoor movie screenings and music festivals as well as more public art.

"This branding is the beginning of the change of expectations for cleanliness, appearance, and pride in our community," Warrick said.

Women wait for the bus across from Pittman-Sullivan Park. The Denver Heights banner features recently-installed artwork "Open Hand, Open Mind, Open Heart." Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Women wait for the bus across from Pittman-Sullivan Park. The Denver Heights banner (top right) features recently-installed artwork "Open Hand, Open Mind, Open Heart." Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The near-Eastside has received a bundle of federal initiatives, designations, and grants focused on improving education, housing, public safety, and general quality of life in the historically neglected part of town. While some programs have already started (EastPoint to Work, the Wheatley Courts redevelopment, and expansion of after-school, summer, and internship opportunities for students), the branding strategy represents EastPoint's first cohesive attempt at reaching beyond these established programs into everyday neighborhood life.

Anyone walking or driving on main corridors in the Eastside on streets like Nolan, Commerce, Houston, Walters and North New Braunfels Avenue can see a tangible representation of the revitalization efforts underway, said Akeem Brown, the new head of community engagement and communications for EastPoint. Brown previously worked for Warrick in the District 2 office.

Akeem Brown handles communication and community engagement for EastPoint. Courtesy photo.

Akeem Brown handles communication and community engagement for EastPoint. Courtesy photo.

"I am extremely excited to join the Office of EastPoint and be able to participate in the revitalization of the Eastside," Brown said. "I believe the key to our communication strategy for the next few months will be to focus on embracing the strong Eastside culture while cultivating a movement of action engagement."

Each banner features iconic cultural and/or architectural structures of the neighborhood and were selected via public input meetings that started this summer.

Warrick hopes the banners and coming branded events will provide a "greater sense of community and solidarity" around Eastside neighborhoods such as Denver Heights, Dignowity Hill, Harvard Place/Eastlawn and Government Hill as well as attract more participants in workforce and education opportunities.

A Harvard Place/Eastlawn EastPoint banner overlooks Wheatley Courts construction. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

A Harvard Place/Eastlawn EastPoint banner overlooks Wheatley Courts construction. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

"It's hard to believe we don't have full classes (for EastPoint to Work) when we're giving free child care and work education classes for free," he said. "Maybe they don't believe it's real or haven't had enough of their friends go through the program ... regardless, we don't want funding to run out without the maximum amount of people taking advantage of it."

The Promise Neighborhood grant expires in late 2016, the Choice Neighborhood in 2017, and the Promise Zone designation lasts until 2025.

"Our vision is that by 2025 the Promise Zone will be a diverse, mixed income community," EastPoint Director Mike Etienne said. "We need the residents to be engaged to carry it on and we need nonprofits like SAGE (San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside) to build capacity to sustain this effort."

Driving around the Eastside on Monday afternoon, it was sometimes difficult to find the banners, which were often located at intersections already cluttered with signs for gas prices, offers to buy used cars, and other advertisements.

A Government Hill EastPoint banner struggles to distinguish itself from other signage on a crowded intersection with a gas station. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

A Government Hill EastPoint banner struggles to distinguish itself from other signage on a crowded intersection with a gas station. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Etienne said that banners, while a small step, will have a psychological impact.

"It sounds small but it's amazing how neighborhood revitalization works," he said. "Some of the minor things that we do go a long way." Picking up trash, painting over graffiti, "people are looking for visible change because that gives a sense of hope that something is happening."

Funding for EastPoint's branding strategy, comes from its own budget, the Mayor's Office, Warrick/District 2's office, the San Antonio Housing Authority, Eastside Promise Neighborhood, and a $25,000 grant via the San Antonio Area Foundation.

"There are at least 9,000 people in the near-Eastside that are unemployed or underemployed," Warrick said, adding that if the neighborhood is experiencing "gentrification" then it's in the City's best interest to get existing residents higher wage jobs so they'll be able to afford new housing opportunities, restaurants, and other amenities.

"(The Promise Zone is) all about giving them those opportunities and allowing them to bridge the gap and be a part of this revitalization instead of being pushed away or kicked out of the community," he said.

 

*Top image: A Dignowity Hill EastPoint banner on the corner of Nolan and Pine streets. The Dignowity Hill banner features the Hays Street Bridge. Photo by Iris Dimmick. 

Related Stories:

Eastside Church Receives Historic Recognition

Eastside H-E-B to Receive Upgrade

The Challenges and Opportunities of Vacancy

SAGE: Keeping Promises in the Eastside Promise Zone

13 thoughts on “EastPoint Launches Branding Strategy for Promise Zone

  1. Great piece Iris Dimmick. PR and Marketing is one of the hardest things for non-profits to be able to afford and use properly.

    Having looked over the EastPoint San Antontio program, I see so much potential and I see the good they are doing.

    I am currently working on putting together a group who go out and help non-profits and individuals with their PR & Marketing, it’s called Art & Technology and Facilitation.

    Anyway, nice article! Glad to see Yal are getting out there.

  2. All good things, but if you want to change the “expectations” of those in the area, implement a program that motivates them to attend the EastPoint to Work classes and helps them navigate the bureaucracies in Human Resource offices at major employers within the city. I don’t think their is a quick solution to the issue. We are talking about generations of experiences that have resulted in the current state and they will not be changed with movies, banners, art, and music festivals. However, I do applaud the efforts.

    • Good luck. I agree. Why are the classes not full? Is it the schedule? What is the cost/benefit choice being made by the people who would be helped by attending but don’t.

      To me the issue is not that the Eastside is “a community that has low expectations of itself”. I think it’s more likely they have low expectations of external programs that don’t seem focused on solving the problem – less than average affluence.

      I don’t live there. I don’t know. I do know that trash and graffitti show a lack of respect for property. Why have people lost this respect for others, or did they even have it to begin with? Is that saying that current residents somehow like the trash and graffitti because they aren’t already taking care of that?! To me it is because many people in low-income neighborhoods don’t have the resources (time, money, and effort) to focus on things other than to find enough work to buy food, maintain basic shelter, and do as much as they can for their family.

      If it’s true that “people are looking for visible change because that gives a sense of hope that something is happening”, then Hope is a negative emotion. It causes people to postpone action waiting for some external event that they are “hoping” will occur.

      Our neighorhoods are lacking because they don’t support a full range of household types, ages, and income levels. Contributing to the problem is the way property taxes are levied, with improvements adding to value (and ultimately higher taxes). The less money one has, the less one is motivated to improve. As renovated homes sell at higher amounts, all surrounding property is affected, which is good if one wants to sell but can make continued residency unafforable after the resources (time, money, and effort) spent “improving” their own community.

      • Steve,

        I find your last paragraph very interesting. There is an alternative to the current property tax structure. Land Value Taxation (LVT) assesses taxes on land value alone, and does not assess taxes on the value of improvements. It has been used to varying degrees in some Pennsylvania cities, including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Altoona. Altoona transitioned to 100% LVT in 2013 (or so), but only for city taxes, not county or school district taxes.

        LVT is not without its opposition. Although transition to LVT can be revenue neutral, meaning overall tax revenue does not decrease, it certainly shifts the tax burden within the affected region. Properties that have less utilized land supported by public infrastructure (roads, utilities, etc) will generally see an increase, while those with relatively more improvements will see a decrease.

        In general, LVTs benefit denser development and disincentivize low density development. Downtown benefits, denser neighborhoods benefit, and businesses with less parking and landscaping benefit. “Estate” development, big box stores, surface parking, and vacant and blighted property pay.

        Kevin

  3. First mistake (of many to come no doubt):
    “While driving around San Antonio’s Eastside on Monday afternoon, Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) saw a community that has low expectations of itself.”

    What gives this politician the right to make this kind of statement? it is simply a lead into decides what expectations this community SHOULD have…..namely a vision aligned to development and interests that will maneuver these communities into a profit for developers. Banners, bla, boa…Seriously, try assuming that these citizens HAVE a dignity that is apparently lacking in city “leaders” that cannot perceive the internal worth of its communities. This is what I hear: “Be like us, or however we will accept you, or we will move you out.” Put that on a banner.

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