Editor’s Note: This article has been updated throughout.
The District 2 City Council Office announced Thursday that the Eastside’s Handy Stop gas station and convenience store on 627 N. New Braunfels Ave., which has become a hotbed of violence and crime over the years, may close for good in about 60 days if the neglected store isn’t brought up to code.
Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) is confident that the store will be shut down.
“The city attorney is working on another motion that will have stronger language,” Warrick said, guaranteeing the closure.
“The (property) owner will still maintain use of the property but that gas station will not be a gas station. We will have to find another type of retail to go into that location,” he said. “We don’t want a vacant building, we want something that’s going to bring something positive to the neighborhood.”
The City and the company that is leasing the building, BSRP Enterprises, Inc., signed a Nuisance Abatement Compliance Agreement on Aug. 4 that outlines the terms of the closure on Oct. 7 and numerous health and building code violations at the Handy Stop. According to the agreement, more than “600 calls for police services for offenses, including but not limited to, narcotics, prostitution, aggravated assaults, knifings, and shootings” initiated an investigation by the San Antonio Police Department’s Dangerous Assessment Response Team (DART).
District 2 staff notified neighborhood association representatives of the agreement via email. Click here to download a copy.
Health Department inspectors found at least 18 health code violations. They found some food had expiration dates from 2014, mold in ice bins and on shelves, dirty utensils, leaky faucets, and more.
The convenience store operators will be required to work with local police officers to prohibit loitering, ensure bright lighting, and stop selling “items which may be utilized for the use, possession or sale of narcotics, including the sale of single cigarettes.” Starting Monday, the store, which has been operating 24 hours a day, will begin to close at midnight until 8 a.m.
The agreement outlines several building code deficiencies that have to be fixed by August 18, including the repair of several bullet holes on the front parapet.
The corner of Nolan Street and North New Braunfels Avenue on the city’s Eastside is a well-known drug dealing, loitering, and prostitution spot and has seen several shootings and stabbings. The Handy Stop has been “the stop” for such criminal activity, which has kept police officers returning to the area time and time again.
“I’m happy that the community’s efforts have led to a result on this,” said Brian Dillard, president of the Dignowity Hill Neighborhood Association. “We’ve been pushing with SAPD, SAGE, EastPoint, and District 2 on doing something about that corner.”
Over the last few months, SAPD officers have been conducting walking patrols of hotspot areas throughout the Eastside when crime rates have increased, but this measure has only proved to be a short-term fix.
In the past, residents have tried to convert the corner into a community gathering spot by hosting various activities, trimming trees, and getting rid of clutter. Gardopia, a community garden adjacent to the corner store, was put in place to help combat crime through education, community building, and neighborhood enhancement.
Efforts to create a cleaner street corner as well as initiatives from police, community leaders, and neighborhood associations to counter crime have not stopped gang activity or drug addicts from turning to dealers to buy crack near the Handy Spot.
“It’s always been talked about … the option of closing it, but (it’s never been) something we’ve been pushing for,” Dillard said. “It’s good to see something done but the job isn’t complete.”
Dillard doesn’t wan to see another vacant lot or building in place of the store becuase it would “make it easier for vagrants and for the same activities to continue.
“We need to work with SAGE, EastPoint, and District 2, so that a sustainable business (gets) put in there … something that can contribute to the community. We hope to see something fill this void sooner rather than later.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the building will close in 60 days. The agreement was signed on Aug. 4.
Top image: People line up for food during the SAHA Resurgence Collaborative’s clean up of the Handy Spot in District 2 on Thursday, July 2, 2015. Photo by Iris Dimmick.