The Where I Live series aims to showcase our diverse city and region by spotlighting its many vibrant neighborhoods. Each week a local resident invites us over and lets us in on what makes their neighborhood special. Have we been to your neighborhood yet? Get in touch to share your story.
When I attended Lanier High School back in the 1970s, I was on the track team and used to run around Collins Garden Park, which back then we knew as North Park. There was no track there at the time, just grass, but I would run from my house to the park and do a few laps before running back home.
I often ate at Panchito’s with my dad, and we’d always see local politicians there. The owner at the time, Frank Sepulveda, used to run the San Antonio Produce Terminal Market, and the restaurant was like a spin-off of that. That restaurant has changed a lot over the years, but you still see a lot of the neighborhood people there, so when I go, I still get that sense of nostalgia.
It was important for me to return to the neighborhood after retiring from the Army because I had seen how Collins Garden had changed and was still changing. I wanted to help make sure it was changing for the better, which is why I bought the house next door to the house I was born in and joined the local neighborhood association.
I’ve served as vice president of the neighborhood association and am currently serving as treasurer. Over the years, we’ve seen city council members come and go, but having an active and vocal neighborhood association has helped us look out for our community by voicing our concerns to the city. The association has addressed issues like 18-wheelers parked in the neighborhood and disruptions from passing trains blowing their horns.
The Collins Garden neighborhood is an old and historic district filled with a myriad of impending developments. It integrates a vibrant business community with a conservative, yet progressive homeownership culture. Families can enjoy a unique and friendly culture, a reasonable cost of living, various employment opportunities and access to valuable public amenities. That is why the Collins Garden Neighborhood Association is excited and focused on helping steer this dynamic community.
For example, the Union Stock Yards organization, whose ownership dates back to 1889 when it was founded by a group of ranchers, closed its cattle processing operations in 2001. When I was growing up in the neighborhood, it was still operating, and I had the unique experience of hearing the cows at night. Since ceasing operations, it has developed an array of warehouse storage buildings utilized by some 90 small business owners such as a wood mill shop, an irrigation systems company and other similar small business enterprises. However, these former livestock proprietors want to find a successful and enthusiastic buyer to further redevelop this 30-acre property and bring an even bigger and more positive impact to the neighborhood.
The Maestro Entrepreneur Center operates out of what used to be Frank Johnson Elementary School, which I attended growing up. I attended a meeting there recently and the building looks almost exactly the same as it did when I was attending school there. Now, the small business incubator helps small businesses get started and get to the next level, and it’s great to see that in our community.
Additionally, the Collins Garden neighborhood is anchored by an H-E-B grocery store that opened on April 20, 1945, as the fourth one of its kind in San Antonio. The grocery store is located across the street from a public library and linear park. Originally billed as “the store of tomorrow,” the Nogalitos H-E-B store promised “extra-large floor space for thousands of food items,” “spacious vegetable and fruit counters” and “the largest meat refrigeration displays in San Antonio.” The store now includes “elevators, escalators and airportlike travelators.”
Other significant businesses and public resources include the San Antonio Produce Terminal Market, a San Antonio Police Department substation, a public library, two city parks, two elementary schools and a City Council satellite office. However, the Collins Garden Neighborhood Association remains strategically focused on new housing development and the preservation of older homes that have traditionally been home to many generations. The continued cultivation of this multi-faceted evolution is what makes the Collins Garden neighborhood a great place to live.
The change is in the air and can be measured by the many new single and multifamily developments that have already been completed. But as we see new constructions going up and market values of more than $500,000, we know that prices are not within reach for our community members. That’s why we’re pushing for more affordable housing options and responsible development that takes current residents into consideration.
In a nutshell, Collins Garden is not what it used to be. I’m confident that in a matter of time, it will be among the best neighborhoods in San Antonio. We at the Collins Garden Neighborhood Association are proud to be at the epicenter of this distinctive revitalization.