Eleven years ago, I arrived in front of what would be my future home. It was a 1920s Craftsman bungalow on a generous lot with large, mature pecan trees shading the back yard. The paint was tired, the interior had a ’70s vibe, and it smelled funny, but it was love at first sight.
A few days after Christmas, I invited my mother, brother, and his family to see my new home. My brother, upon seeing the grassless yard, corner tire shop, and vacant warehouse on the next block proclaimed, “This is definitely the wrong side of the tracks.”
I disagree. This is Roosevelt Park. The neighborhood is named for the nearby park where Teddy Roosevelt trained with his band of “Rough Riders.” Originally a Czech and German neighborhood, the population is now predominately Hispanic. Bordered on the north by the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, the south by Concepcion Park, the east by Interstate 37 and South Presa, and the west by Mission Road, it’s a small, humble, friendly neighborhood.
It is the kind neighborhood protected not by a gate, but by the vigilant eyes of neighbors. The kind of place where almost every home has a front porch that is used often. For me, it is the perfect venue for reading on a cool, spring night. For others, it is a place to connect with family and neighbors at the end of the day.
And it’s really the neighbors that make this place great. Wonderful people like Linda, the neighbor who so closely watched the neighborhood that she called me when my pest control guy spent too much time wandering around the house looking for a convenient opening to the crawl space, or Mr. Lopez, who always greets me by saying, “Hi, neighbor!”
There’s Mr. Reynosa, who tells me to be careful when he sees me leave the house on my bike; Estacio, whose grandchildren I’ve watched grow up and move out to live their own lives; and Tim and Mary Kay, who I met when they were in town to avoid Hurricane Harvey, and ended up buying and renovating Linda’s house.
Around the neighborhood, my dogs, affectionately known as “The Girls,” are more famous than I am. Murphy is an escape artist who learned how to unlatch the gate, crawl under the house and escape through a crawl space, and climb a 6-foot-8-inch fence. When her escapes are discovered, the neighbors, upon hearing me call Murphy’s name, point me in the general direction of her escape. Thankfully, at 12 years old, she doesn’t escape much anymore.
The amenities in Roosevelt Park rival any gated community. We have several parks, a pool, churches catering to various faiths, a large community sports complex, a gym, a coffee shop, the Mission Reach, and a brewery. In many cases, lots are deceptive, appearing small out front but with spacious backyards with mature trees teeming with squirrels and song birds, and in the summer, fireflies.
Getting anywhere is convenient. Lavaca is just across the tracks, and a few blocks beyond that is Southtown. Access to I-37 and I-10 is quick and straightforward. Want to hit the town? Grab your bike and you’re downtown in minutes. I’m fortunate in that I can easily commute to my office, which is only seven miles to the north.
Like in the surrounding communities of Denver Heights, Lavaca, and Lone Star, many homes are being renovated. In addition, new construction projects, including town homes and mixed-use apartments, are being planned. New families are moving in, and the families who have lived here for 40 years welcome them. It is not just a neighborhood, it is a community.
So to answer my brother: Wrong side of the tracks? No, the best side of the tracks. Roosevelt Park is home.