Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
When I moved away for college, I didn’t think I would ever come back to live in San Antonio. While I loved growing up here, I didn’t see a lot of exciting opportunities for young people.
My dad moved here to play for the Spurs in ‘89, and I was born in ‘93. I grew up on the North Side, at The Dominion. The Spurs were a huge, incredible part of my life, and San Antonio was a great place to grow up. But when it came time to go to college, I didn’t apply to any schools here.
I studied at the University of Texas at Austin, then worked in the tech sector there after I graduated. From there I moved to New York and was there for three years. I moved back here in January for a new company that I helped launch. It’s all been a whirlwind, but it’s good to be back home.
It’s surprising how much the city has matured and developed. There’s a new energy. Maybe I was young before and couldn’t pick up on it, but it feels like there’s a new energy, a new belief in the city that is making it an exciting place to be. Between the Pearl and what’s going on in the tech district, the new Frost Tower, UTSA, and Southtown, it’s like a whole new city.
And there are a lot of young people who are excited to be here, who see a lot of possibility and potential for building a career here. San Antonio is moving past that narrative of just being a nice place to raise a family.
Before moving to The ‘68, I was renting a little house in Lavaca, which was a great way to experience Southtown. I grew up on the North Side and spent a lot of time on the East Side because of my dad’s school, The Carver Academy, but this was a whole new part of town I’ve been discovering.
The ’68 is a beautiful, brand new apartment building right in the middle of Hemisfair. I can stand on my balcony and look out at the park, which is always lively. We have an amazing view into downtown, and you can see the city getting built right from your window. It’s exciting. I love being right at the intersection of downtown and Southtown.
The building itself is an interesting model. It’s an example of a private-public partnership, in which AREA Real Estate partnered with Hemisfair to develop multifamily housing, and 50 percent of the units are affordable, which makes for a great dynamic. There are a lot of families in the building, and those families are utilizing the park. There’s also a restaurateur responsible for some of my favorite restaurants living in the building and a reality TV star right next door, so it’s an interesting mix of folks.
There are plenty of places to eat and hang out all within walking distance. Just downstairs in this building, they’re putting in a couple of restaurants, a wine bar, and Lick Ice Creams. Dough and Commonwealth Coffee are right next door here in Hemisfair. I love eating at Battalion and Rosario’s, and Madhatters is a nice, low-key place with a great tea selection. On a nice day, there isn’t a better place to be than the Friendly Spot.
Downstairs there’s a gym with fitness classes, and it’s open to anybody who wants to come. Residents get special pricing, and it’s a good way to meet your neighbors. There’s also a basketball court on the roof of the parking garage. I’m excited for more people to move in and to get some good games going.
And Hemisfair has done such a good job activating the park. There’s always something going on. Just recently we had Luminaria, Diwali, and Day of the Dead celebrations. To be able to just walk downstairs and walk into something like that is amazing.
I get to see the park every day and the people who visit. The park’s demographics look very much like the city’s demographics. With all this talk of income inequality in San Antonio in light of the recent Census report, Hemisfair is an example of how we can bring folks together to enjoy and interact with each other. San Antonio is such a car-oriented city, and it’s easy to live in your own little bubble, which is why spaces like this are so important.
I’m working on my master’s in urban and regional planning at UTSA’s downtown campus, and it’s nice to be able to walk or ride my bike to class. It’s also really interesting to be living in the middle of a giant case study with all the growth around downtown San Antonio. I also see all the challenges that come with the kind of growth that San Antonio is experiencing, especially in the urban core.
White flight left poorer communities, mainly minorities, in urban cores long ago. Now young professionals don’t want to live in the suburbs, they want to live in urban areas, so these urban cores are becoming more valuable. This is happening in cities across the country.
And development is good, we want young people moving here and bringing money and ideas into the city. But at the same time, we have to think about the people who have built lives here over the past few decades. All of a sudden they’re seeing their neighborhoods change in a way that there’s no room for them anymore. A lot of people are working on addressing this and it’s an important part of my work and my studies.
In my work for Blueprint Local, our goal is to leverage opportunity zones, investing in both real estate and companies to promote inclusive economic development and sustainable growth.
There are a lot of challenges, but also a lot of opportunities. That’s what I want people to know, especially people like me who might have not considered San Antonio before. It’s an exciting place to be right now, one where the city’s leaders are accessible and there’s opportunity to take on leadership roles yourself. And The ’68 offers the unique opportunity to live in the middle of a public park in a top U.S. city. I don’t know if you can get that anywhere else.