View from the Majestic Tower Apt, looking East down Houston Street. Photo by Kara Gomez.
Lorenzo and Kara Gomez
Lorenzo and Kara Gomez

When my wife, Kara, and I started dating a couple years ago, I owned a home near NW Military & Wurzbach, and my wife rented a small studio apartment at the Towers at the Majestic in downtown San Antonio.

My house was spacious and way too big for one person. In typical bachelor style I only routinely used three rooms in my house: the bedroom, where I would sleep; the office; and the living room, where I watched 30 Rock … daily.  I rarely used the backyard or dining room, and only used the garage to store junk that I should have thrown away or donated.

Though I only used these three rooms, I filled the rest of the house with furniture so it wouldn’t feel empty.  Makes a lot of sense, right?

Kara loved her studio and had fully embraced downtown living.  When we got married last year it was a non-issue and both of us expected that Kara would move into my house; it was easier to let her lease expire and move one room than for me to sell my home.

Escape route from suburbia. Click Image for larger map.
Escape route from suburbia. Click Image for larger map.

What I did not expect was that she would begin secretly planning our escape from suburbia as soon as she moved in.

One evening she casually mentioned to me: “By the way, we have an appointment to go see an apartment at the Majestic on Thursday.”

Remembering some sage advice someone gave me about being married: I smiled. I nodded. Inside I was thinking: “What the what?!”

Truth be told, my wife knew the timing was right for convincing me to move downtown. I had recently returned from a business trip in Las Vegas where I met with The Downtown Project, the revitalization initiative started by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. I came back from the trip really pumped up and excited, because the momentum of Downtown Las Vegas felt just like the momentum that was building here in San Antonio.

I felt a bit inauthentic during the visit.

Everyone at The Downtown Project had taken the plunge downtown – into the heart of their efforts – while I had not. A lot of the work that I do for The 80/20 Foundation centers around downtown development, and because of my apathy regarding the daunting process of selling a home, I was still residing in the suburbs.

The majestic dining/living room. Photo by Kara Gomez.
Our “majestic” dining/living room. Photo by Kara Gomez.

Kara and I toured the Majestic building and viewed an apartment that was quickly coming up for rent.  The apartment was a 1,100 square foot, two bed, two bath rectangle with every wall that faced north full of windows. Light poured in from every single room. If you looked out any window of the apartment, you could see the top floor of the Gunter Hotel, Weston Centre towering over it from behind, Travis Park, and – not too far off in the distance – the lights of the Pearl Brewery.

View from the Majestic Tower Apt, looking East down Houston Street. Photo by Kara Gomez.
View from the Majestic Tower Apt, looking East down Houston Street. Photo by Kara Gomez.

Needless to say, I was sold. Kara quickly put on her project management hat, created 20 Excel spreadsheets and got to work on selling our house. Examining our belongings and getting down to just the essentials was such a liberating feeling.

Kara put some non-essentials on Craigslist and we donated most of our nice furniture. Two quick trips to IKEA and BOOM! We were urbanites living above the Majestic Theatre on the most beautiful street in our city.

The two most common questions people ask us are:

1)   Where do we park?

2)   Where do we get groceries?

True, parking and groceries aren’t quite as convenient when compared to the suburbs, but since we get to walk home from the bar instead of drive, we consider it an even trade.

Parking

Residents pay $50/month for a city-parking pass to the Houston Street Garage, which connects directly to the Towers at the Majestic for easy access when carrying groceries or other heavy items. Residents can also pay $20/year for a city parking decal, which allows downtown residents to park in commercial loading zones for 20-minute increments.  This means we can park in front of the Majestic Theatre to drop off groceries or make a short trip without having to park in the garage. Now that we live, work, and attend church downtown, our family gas bill has gone from well over $350/month to under $100/month.

Groceries

Alas, the great grocery debate. I will say that getting groceries has not been the doomsday experience that people go on about. When I lived off NW Military I would get in my car and drive to the H-E-B Alon Market. So, nothing has changed in that regard; if we want groceries we get in our car and drive to H-E-B Central Market. For those times when we need something small or need to refill a prescription we just walk 377ft (according to Google) to the Walgreens at Houston and Navarro.

Uncommon Fare, 301 E. Cevallos St. (within the Cevallos Loft complex). Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Uncommon Fare, 301 E. Cevallos St. (within the Cevallos Loft complex). Photo by Iris Dimmick.

There is also a small farmers’ market every Tuesday in Main Plaza, and Delivery Market has some produce and a good wine selection.  Kara has recently become addicted to Uncommon Fare, a small urban grocery store that is only a B-cycle ride or short drive away. As the downtown renaissance continues and more people move into the area, the issue of a grocery store will likely be addressed. For now, we’re too busy at these other cool places to worry about it.

Entertainment

Listed in no particular order, we absolutely love taking advantage of all these great spots that are easily within walking distance from the Majestic: Ocho at Hotel Havana, Esquire Tavern, Zinc, The Brooklynite, and Market Square, with Southtown being just a bike ride or $4 cab ride away.

Shortly after moving downtown we both gained 10 pounds from eating at every restaurant we could walk to (we think the kitchens in the Majestic are small because there isn’t much need for them).

Opening night at the Brooklynite. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Opening night at the Brooklynite. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

But that’s okay, we run on the Riverwalk in the mornings and there is a Gold’s Gym one block away on Travis Street. We can walk to AMC Rivercenter to catch a movie, and recently became members of SAMA and Artpace.  We plan to get season tickets for the San Antonio Symphony soon, too.

The 2013 Western Heritage Parade and Cattle Drive as seen from the 12th floor of the Majestic. Photo by Kara Gomez.
The 2013 Western Heritage Parade and Cattle Drive as seen from the 12th floor of the Majestic. Photo by Kara Gomez.

There are so many events happening downtown that things just pop up and happen around us. For example, the Western Heritage Parade and Cattle Drive runs right down Houston Street to kick-off the rodeo events and we were able to view everything from our window on the 12th floor. As we looked out our window we could see all of Houston Street lined with people, or as Kara would say, “Standing in our front yard.”

Having said all that, I will tell you that the best part of living downtown is the energy, especially at night. Kara and I take nightly strolls and we love seeing everyone dressed to the nines waiting to see a show at the Majestic Theatre. We feel energized walking through the crowds to get in and out of our apartment.  I now know why Kara was so quick to get back to the heart of our city.

We are now happy to call downtown San Antonio home, and it feels great to be here during the Decade of Downtown.  We see momentum happening all around us, and we are excited to see what our neighborhood will look like in 10 years.

San Antonio is a city on the rise, and we are so excited to watch the rise happen from the core.  It’s a perfect fit for us.

Lorenzo Gomez works for The 80/20 Foundation. He is also the founder of the nonprofit technology blog eSamaritan and former ten year Rackspace employee. You can follow him on Twitter at @eSamaritan.

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Lorenzo Gomez III

Lorenzo Gomez works for The 80/20 Foundation, the director of Geekdom, and is a former, ten-year Rackspace employee.