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.

Deep in our city’s flowing center, on Woodward Place, I begin my mornings tuning into the river. With a cup of coffee in my hand and my feet dangling above the San Antonio River, I wonder where it’s flowed, and where it is flowing. Downstream and upstream, past and present, I think about how far San Antonio has come.

I reflect three miles upstream and two decades into our past, to the days before the Pearl feathered our cap. After the Pearl Brewery closed in 2001, it became a ghost town, and crime and public dumping moved into the area. Now, the Pearl takes its place as one of the hippest parts of town, battling contention from the up-and-coming Dignowity Hill and its Eastside vibes.

Miles downstream and even further back in time, from the 1960s to the mid-’90s, the San Antonio River was a channelized flood control project, holding no recreational or environmental value. Today, because of the hard work started in 1998 by the San Antonio River Authority, seven miles of the San Antonio River known as the Mission Reach have been intentionally and painstakingly restored — an environmental effort that rivals any in success. 

San Antonio has changed, undeniably, and more and more each season. Living downtown reminds me of that every day. Here on the bank of the river between Cesar Chavez and Commerce the energy is a bit different than in the rest of San Antonio. Growing up in the ’90s, anything off the River Walk in San Antonio’s downtown seemed sleepy. Today the energy in the area has been revitalized with local commerce spilling off of the river into Southtown and La Villita, new bars and restaurants keep the attention in the area ever-shifting and competition sharp. College students buzz by on scooters, and locals from across the city come to enjoy the developing scene around Hemisfair. It’s quite a different feel from the San Antonio my family met in 1997.

Charles Blank shares a light with neighbor and friend Roland Cavazos, who hosts guests at the Inn on the Riverwalk Tuesday.
Charles Blank shares a laugh with neighbor and friend Roland Cavazos, who hosts guests at the Inn on the Riverwalk Tuesday. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

I love this city. I love our people — their care, their tenacity, their love for all things Puro. I simply couldn’t imagine living elsewhere. It’s downtown where I feel most connected to San Antonio. It’s the little touches, from the friendly howdies and dog pats I steal along the River Walk, to my strolls through the architecture of King William on my way to grab a beer at the Friendly Spot or Hands Down.

My house neighbors the Inn on the Riverwalk, where my dear friend Roland Cavazos hosts guests to our city every night. It’s a unique pleasure witnessing people from all over the world see our city, many for the first time. Serving as an adjunct ambassador is a point of pride for any San Antonian. Luckily, there’s no shortage of recommendations in our growing city. 

Living in San Antonio over our last few decades of booming growth and development has been exciting. Much of that business development has centered around the river, as it has since our city’s founding. The river is certainly San Antonio’s epicenter. However, there’s a more natural reason why living along the riverside makes me feel so connected with our city.

The San Antonio River, and the creeks and tributaries that make up its basin, sprawl all across our city. The waterways connect one by one to our river. It’s this flowing water that reminds me just how connected we all are to one another — or how connected we could be, if we have the intention. From the Northern Salado Creek in Shavano  Park flowing down through the East Side’s neighborhoods to the Alazan and Apache, and San Pedro Creeks in the west, they all drain south into the San Antonio River.

Charles Blank (center right) enjoys drinks with and his girlfriend Britta Ramirez (center left), mother Diane Blank (far left) and father Steve Blank (far right) at the Friendly Spot Tuesday.
Charles Blank (center right) enjoys drinks with and his girlfriend Britta Ramirez (center left), mother Diane Blank (far left) and father Steve Blank (far right) at the Friendly Spot Tuesday. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

When I founded River Aid San Antonio, my cohorts and I were well aware of this dynamic, and the detriment of ignoring the state of connection across San Antonio. We saw a problem that affected our entire city and rallied a grassroots community that sprawls to every side of San Antonio. At River Aid San Antonio’s events, our citizens come together to achieve a greater cohesive impact for our city; as we say “one city, one river, one people.”

The thing I love most about our city is our ability to maintain that small-town feel we all know, while we grow as the seventh largest city in the United States. However, what does our small town amount to if we don’t protect and care for one another? We must protect our city together, and lay plans for equitable, sustainable growth. 

I hope that in the next decade San Antonio’s development and investment will be influenced by a similar recognition. How do we grow while protecting our families and communities and preserving our culture?  How do we maintain the historic and cultural identities of our Westside, Southside, and Eastside neighborhoods while making the necessary improvements to uplift their communities?

I see a future for San Antonio not possible for many cities. We are at a unique crossroads in our history. Faced with uncapped growth our beloved neighborhoods will start to change. So I encourage anyone reading this to remember this is your city, you are your community’s representative, and we are all adjunct ambassadors for our city. These neighborhoods are each ours, each connecting to the next, creating San Antonio. Despite the differences, geographic or otherwise, each unique neighborhood is what makes San Antonio special. Let’s celebrate and protect San Antonio so we can all continue to grow and prosper within our city.

Charles Blank is the executive director of River Aid San Antonio,