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Federal Officials Make Recommendations For East Side Improvements

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio

Federal officials visited San Antonio's East Side this week to guage how reinvestment dollars are shaping housing and education needs.

The city received federal funding in the form of two grants: the Choice Neighborhood Grant, awarded in 2012, which targets housing, and the Promise Neighborhood Grant, awarded in 2011, which focuses on education.

"For example," San Antonio Housing Authority's Kathy McCormick began, "as school enrollment starts to improve and the testing in school start to improve, you also find that people are entering job training, extending their education. So now what you've done is increased the disposable income that's in a neighborhood, which allows more people to purchase homes in an area, which in turn supports local business and neighborhoods serving retail."

Officials from Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Education, Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice combed the streets and talked with San Antonio leaders heading up the East Side reinvestment efforts.

They made recommendations based on what they saw, including taking particular areas one at a time.

"What it means for us is that we might focus on two or three streets where you have concentrated improvements on those streets, like sidewalks and lighting and community gardens as opposed to trying to distribute that effort across a 20 block area," said McCormick.

The grants may have not been totally coincidental. McCormick says the city applied for both in hopes of revamping the East Side in both areas. The five-year grants will have more than $54 million in impact. McCormick says by leveraging dollars, she hopes to turn the Choice Grant into a total of $150 million.

Next, leaders will form committees for safety initiatives, as well as phasing the redevelopment of the Wheatley Courts public housing site. The courts are not expected to be torn down for another year and a half.