The Conversation Continues: A Young Family That Left Downtown Decides To Leave the Suburbs And Return to the Center City

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Bree Soileau, Alamo180 president.

Jeff and Bree Solieau are the kind of athletes with fitness levels and the competitive drive that weekend workout types like yours truly can only dream of  attaining. I first met Bree when she was working at the old Downtown Y and competing as a nationally ranked triathlete. Jeff was working as a personal fitness coach and, for a season or two, rode with the Third Street Grackles cycling team. Now they have their own fitness business, Alamo180, and a young family. If you've frequented the Pearl or the Blue Star Art Space, you might have seen one of their outdoor classes underway.  If you're looking to get your butt kicked into real shape, these are your guys.

Jeff left a detailed and thoughtful comment on The Rivard Report Sunday  after reading this piece by Kell-Muñoz Designer Dan Lazarine defending the quality of life in center city San Antonio.  Jeff's comments also focus on a topic I addressed Friday, the missing link in people moving downtown: young families with children who want good public schools. We thought his views merited a wider audience as TRR continues to host a growing community conversation among young, educated San Antonians about the pros and cons of living and working here. We think these views, taken collectively, will prove invaluable as city leaders work to make San Antonio a more attractive urban setting for people to live, work and create.  Please email us with your viewpoints, either as a posted comment, or if you feel you have more to say, with a posting.

'I'm tired of the commute...and doing yard work."

 

By Jeff Soileau
alamo180.com

After reading this, I feel compelled to share my own story. If you currently live in the Downtown area, feel free to read and comment, but this is for folks who do not live in Downtown and are contemplating the move to our urban jewel-in-the-rough.

I have a love-hate-love relationship with San Antonio, and I take both sides of the discussion (with bias).

As a newly wed and (30 something) college student, I lived Downtown and loved it for more than two and half years. Then my wife, Bree, and I had a kid. And we bought a house in the suburbs. And now I’m counting the days until I move back to Downtown! Let me explain…

Having a kid influences the way you look at Downtown. Needless to say, I was very much influenced by family, who, despite good overall intentions, never asked us what we wanted. We thought about schools. My wife taught at a public school just west of Downtown before our birth. We were very certain that we did not want our child going to one of these schools. That left private schools, which are too expensive for us. So with the encouragement of family (You can’t raise a kid in an apartment!???), we bought a house in the suburbs. In a good school district. Close to family. However, that was all that changed.

I still work in the Downtown/Midtown area, and we started our own business that operates in Southtown. Now, instead of a two-mile commute to work on bike or moped, I have a 15 mile, 20 minutes-without-traffic-commute. One way. I used to be part of the solution, now I feel like I am part of the problem. While my mortgage and utilities are about the same as my rent and utilities were, my fuel consumption has quadrupled (both our cars get 30-plus mpg). As well as the amount of time we have lost. In addition to our loss in time with commuting, we now have a yard that requires two hours a week of maintenance, not to mention $$$ for watering, lawn mowers, etc.

Money is a big issue for lots of people. If you have money, you can afford to live in Downtown, or anywhere else for that matter. If you don’t have money, it SEEMS more affordable to buy in the suburbs. Nice Downtown living is expensive. Parking is bothersome. Grocery stores are scarce. Living Downtown still requires owning a car.

Bree Soileau, Alamo180 president.

For $1500 a month, I can rent a 1,000 sq. ft. apartment in Southtown. OR, I can buy a home in Northeast San Antonio with 2,000 sq. ft. That may seem appealing to many people, but when you consider all the factors I mentioned earlier, is it really a value? I guess that depends on what you value. I think that for many people, they would rather own and commute then to rent. In addition, what kind of people can afford to rent in Downtown? The people who can, young professionals, can probably afford the commute as well. Plus the dollar goes a lot further (depending on perspective) when buying in the suburbs.

It really comes down to thought processes and preferences. Many people feel that the suburban life is ideal, the best of both rural and urban living. I can write a 10-page essay about the issues (political, social, commercial, economical) that form the above-mentioned thought process, but I’ll spare you.

Downtown needs pioneers. People who are willing to buck the “bigger is better” ternd, people who willingly adopt the mindset that “less is more.”

San Antonio is a beautiful city, and it draws a large number of tourists each year. Some of these tourists actually LIVE in San Antonio (think about it). We can show them that Downtown is an affordable way to live, work and play. We continue our slow, steady change to make San Antonio a livable city of tomorrow.

In my opinion, suburbs are all the same, from Kansas City to Los Angeles to San Antonio. What is the point of living in San Antonio if we don’t actually LIVE in San Antonio? We plan to sell and move closer, maybe find a rental in Alamo Heights or Olmos Park, or brave Southtown. Good schools, close to the action, and definitely bike-able. I’m tired of commuting. And of yard work.

jeff@alamo180.com

To learn more about Alamo180: Call 210.409.3287, or Email Bree and Jeff: info@alamo180.com

Photos courtesy of Alamo180.

To read the previous four postings about life in center city San Antonio in chronological order, click on these links:

Urban Renaissance for San Antonio?

San Antonio? 'Not Anytime Soon"

I'll Take San Antonio

South of Southtown: Life on the Other Side of the Tracks

 

 

3 thoughts on “The Conversation Continues: A Young Family That Left Downtown Decides To Leave the Suburbs And Return to the Center City

  1. this is so right on! I live downtown, and work in the medical center. I moved down here over two years ago from Bandera/1604. I didn’t really love the area I lived, but it was fine. What I really hated was the 45-minute commute to get home. I started looking for a new place to live and began looking downtown.

    I figured that i’d rather love where I lived if I was still going to be having any kind of commute. (oddly enough, the commute is better heading downtown)

    I can tell you that living downtown agrees with me. I like being close to events, restaurants and everything else downtown has to offer. My only complaint is that all my friends live so far out.

    • Kati – Josh, these are perfect! We can’t wait to see the rest. Brian and I were so nevrous (before meeting you) about taking pictures. Neither of us is comfortable in front of the camera. But, you made it easy and FUN. Seriously it was fun. That’s HUGE. Thank you for putting us at ease and for the gorgeous photos.Can’t wait for the rest

  2. I hope you make it back inside the loop soon!

    I would recommend living in the area between Monte Vista and Tobin Hill. Hawthorne Academy is a really good public school right in this area. I know a lot of Trinity professors live in this area and send their kids to Hawthorne and International School of the Americas (for high school). I live on East Ashby two doors down from Hawthorne…I love my location because it’s calm, full of families,and walkable, yet it’s in reach of Pearl, downtown, historic neighborhoods, and Southtown.

    Best wishes!

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