Fifth in a Series: A Rising Southside
This week we are publishing postings from people driving the economic and cultural redevelopment of the Southside. We welcome submissions from readers who want to share their own views on a rising Southside. [Read more: “It’s The Decade of Downtown, But Don’t Miss San Antonio’s Rising Southside.]
I’ve been a San Antonio resident for more than 20 years, but life has come full circle for me in my new role as president and CEO of Brooks City Base. After all, I built my first house on the southeast part of town, just a rock’s throw away from the Brooks campus.
People in San Antonio don’t equate this part of the city with science, technology and medical breakthroughs, but they should. You could fill a museum at Brooks documenting the history of military and space innovation that took place at Brooks Air Force Base over the decades.
The foundation for those accomplishments dates back to the nation’s first efforts in aeronautical defense training a little more than a century ago. The base was home to some of the most important breakthroughs in science and technology used to prepare NASA astronauts for space exploration and Air Force pilots for advanced flight and missions that gave our military superior technology and skills.
Now, as the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination nears in November, many in our city will remember the last public speech he delivered at the former Brooks Air Force Base School of Aerospace Medicine the day before he died. This turned out to be his last official act as president. The National Geographic Channel is developing a documentary to air in mid-November that traces the last 24 hours of JFK’s life, and much of it was filmed at Brooks City Base last month.
The historical aspects of the campus don’t stop there. My office is right down the street from historic Hangar 9, the oldest wooden hangar still standing in its original location in the United States. The Lieutenant Sidney Brooks memorial gravesite is another significant landmark on the campus. Readers interested in learning more about Brooks’ rich history dating back to early aviation can click here.
We pay tribute to the history of Brooks even as we develop a new vision for our future. A remarkable transformation already is underway. Since the closure, Brooks City Base has developed as a research and technology park. Parts of the 1,200-acre campus certainly look like a research and technology park – namely DPT Laboratories and the new Mission Trail Baptist Hospital.
But what is most notable to first-time visitors is the thriving mixed-use community taking shape, with residential, education, commercial, retail, and office space all developing together. An abundance of land reflects the great opportunity for future growth. We recently decided that the best way to make the most of our own historic opportunity is to conduct a search for a master developer that can lend expertise in how we develop and make sure the necessary infrastructure is put in place.
Today, 20-plus businesses operate on campus, and account for approximately 2,500 jobs. at current growth rates it won’t be long before we equal and then surpass the 3,000 jobs that were lost with the closure of the air force base. Workers here earn an average annual salary of almost $50,000 – significantly more than the city’s median income.
Brooks City Base’s new vision and mission is to embrace what it’s meant to be, what it has been all along, a mixed-use community that supports the needs of the surrounding area’s residents. We’ve listened to the market, and one significant demand we are meeting is people’s expectation of accessible, quality education for their children.
We are now home to the Brooks Academy of Science and Engineering, a STEM accredited and top performing charter school that focuses on preparing K-12 students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and science. SAISD’s Mission Academy is just a few minutes away from the campus. Brooks City Base also hosts more than 1,800 students from Texas A&M-San Antonio who are enrolled in undergraduate business courses here.
The Landings at Brooks City Base, a new 300-unit, multi-family apartment development by the NRP Group that opened last summer, is alive with young families and people that work at the local hospital, the schools on campus, and area companies that service the Eagle Ford shale play in nearby South Texas. We’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that as The Landings quickly reached full capacity at market rate, the average tenant income is about $76,000, double the projected figure.
Most of the current residents are able to walk to work, stop at a coffee shop, enjoy a choice of nearby entertainment venues, and come home to a beautiful place – no wonder it was this year’s Best Residential Development according to the San Antonio Business Journal.
We see Brooks City Base as the gateway to a new future not only for a former military base but also for the historically underestimated area it serves. As we survey our surroundings and see the tremendous transformation all along the San Antonio River and the historic Missions and our drive to become a World Heritage Site, we know there is much more to come in the years ahead. Brooks City Base will be a very big part of that change and growth. We invite you to join us on that journey.
President and Chief Executive Officer, Leo Gomez, is responsible for the executive leadership of Brooks City Base (BCB) and the Brooks City Base Foundation. Before joining Brooks City Base, Leo held the position of Vice President of Public and Government Affairs for Spurs Sports & Entertainment since 1996. He left Spurs Sports & Entertainment for two years to serve as General Manager of Administration with Toyota Manufacturing, Texas before returning to Spurs Sports & Entertainment in 2005. Leo has also served as President of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.