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.

In between Monte Vista and Olmos Park, tucked away off of East Hildebrand Avenue, is the apartment I have called home since 2016. It’s quiet, homey and central to everything. Every year when faced with the option to move, I choose to stay. After working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., from 2014 to 2015, I returned home to build on my existing roots and explore what more San Antonio had to offer. 

Growing up a San Antonio native, I remember the bias folks had against going downtown because it was touristy, only known for the Alamo and River Walk, or they had a negative perception of the downtown playground I would come to know and love. So Fridays usually meant hanging out at the Starbucks at the Quarry, never branching out farther than the movie theater or Borders bookstore. While Starbucks is still there, Borders is not, but so much more has blossomed in the area. 

Having been raised in the Shearer Hills/Ridgeview area, the daughter of a neighborhood association president, I embraced community, diversity and exploration. I was fortunate to have family living in the Harlandale and Burbank neighborhoods and to be able to grow up simultaneously in several communities from the South Side to the North Central areas of San Antonio. It’s an experience I wish more locals had in order to understand the widespread inequities that exist in our city and how where you live affects your access to healthy food, health care and quality education. 

This mindset of exploring our community and embracing all parts of town expanded to my career as well. As a longtime advisor and former deputy chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), I was able to work with neighbors from Dignowity Hill to the Historic West Side to Brooks and everywhere in between. Hearing from diverse voices and finding all the best hidden gems within these neighborhoods I learned and embraced what it truly means to be a San Antonian.

MaryEllen Veliz always orders a matcha latte while working remotely at Press Coffee.
MaryEllen Veliz always orders a matcha latte while working remotely at Press Coffee. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Connectedness to the heart of San Antonio was something I looked for when selecting a place to live. I moved eight minutes down the road from where I grew up because I wanted to feel connected to the communities where I was raised and to the communities I worked with. What makes my neighborhood so unique is its proximity to everything. It’s five minutes to the St. Mary’s Strip, seven minutes to the Pearl, 12 minutes to Shotgun House Roasters, eight minutes to Tucker’s Kozy Korner and 11 minutes to Confluence Park. Go north and enjoy the perks of the Olmos Park neighborhood, go south and bike the Mission Reach. Connected. 

Having been working from home for the majority of the past two years, my living room has become my office with satellite meeting rooms at Local Coffee, High Street Wine and Press Coffee — places where they know your name, care how your day is going and supercharge your work with a boost of matcha or rosé. To destress I am able to lace up my shoes and go out my front door for a run or walk right through Olmos Park, Brackenridge Park or along the Museum Reach of the San Antonio River. 

Connectedness goes beyond location and familiar places in my neighborhood. My location allows me to connect with ease to my New Leaders Council family, place-based leaders who live all across San Antonio, and convene to uplift each other’s voices and strategize how to build trust and make a collective impact rooted in equity. My proximity to downtown allows me to meet and collaborate with civic leaders from nearby neighborhoods with ease to invest in this community I call home. 

San Antonio is a great place to call home, but it is even more special when you take advantage of everything it has to offer. Being centrally located will always remain a priority for me so I am able to be active, be mobile, and both experience the joys our city has to offer and be part of the solution to the challenges we still face.