by Sam Nunnelly

Growing up in San Antonio, the last thing I wanted  to do after graduating college was move back. I felt I had outgrown the city and had seen it all. I reluctantly loaded my belongings into a U-Haul and made my way back to San Antonio. I had graduated from Texas Tech University, and the drive from Lubbock to San Antonio was long but gave me a great opportunity to sit and think about my future in San Antonio. At the time, my feelings of home were derived from my previous insulated life where I didn’t venture spatially or culturally. I hung out in the same place, with the same people and did the same thing. I was moving back to work for the family business, and living in San Antonio was part of the deal.

The one thing that did come from that long, quiet drive home was a commitment to not be a victim of my environment. When I returned home I purchased a small starter home outside my area of comfort, and immediately started to look for like-minded people. I am still close with my friends from grade school, but I knew that my personal growth meant new people and new ideas. I came to realize that San Antonio had much more to offer. With the company of good friends, we started to venture across the city. We made our way to places like San Pedro Park, events like Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling), and eventually downtown, where “the tourists hang out.”

San Antonio downtown view from Judson condominiums.
Balcony view from Nunnelly’s loft.

When I arrived in downtown, I didn’t see the sleepy tourist hangout like I originally expected, but I found opportunity to be a part of something bigger. I found opportunity in the people, in the culture, in the abandoned and preserved historic buildings, and most importantly, I found opportunity in the leadership of San Antonio, both political and civic. These opportunities cannot be found in any other city. San Antonio has about 1.4 million people, and its creative and cultural identity in the downtown area is starting to flourish. In cities like New York, Austin, and Portland the molds have been set. You can move to Austin, or New York and be part of a scene, but show me a city the size of San Antonio where one has the ability to help create the scene.

This opportunity to make a real difference has been made possible by people like Mayor Julián Castro, Graham Weston, Andres Andujar, Darryl Bird, Ben Brewer and District One Councilman Diego Bernal. It’s not just their support of the mission, but their commitment to facilitate the process.

The Judson, photo by Peter French.
The Judson Candy Factory Lofts, photo by Peter French.

With this new inspiration, I sold my house and purchased a condominium at the newly renovated Judson Candy Factory Lofts. My condo is just over 900 sq. ft., with stained concrete floors, 16’ high ceilings, and granite countertops. The pool is teeming with residents, and the open green spaces provide ample room to throw a football and play with your dog. Other amenities include covered parking, a gym, a private porch, and a rooftop patio with beautiful views of the downtown skyline. The parking and access requires entrance through a coded gate. One of the key amenities at Judson is the 10’x18’ private storage space that sits just below my unit. I love that my golf clubs and bike do not clutter my living room.

My favorite part of living at the Judson, besides being in the middle of the epicenter of our cultural transformation, is the community and lifestyle. Located at the intersections of downtown, King William, and Southtown, Judson has provided me with everything I need. I am a walk or a bike ride from any one of my local hangouts or friends. On a Friday night, I usually like to start my evening off eating at one of my favorite restaurants, Le Frite or The Monterrey. Both restaurants provide a quiet and relaxed setting with amazing menu items. Following dinner, if I am lucky enough to get on the guest list I will make my way to the Richter Co. on lower Broadway, which provides the locals with a truly unique speakeasy in a renovated urban warehouse. Another new favorite place of mine is Bar 1919, where you can find a great selection of craft beers, custom infusions, and a great education on the history of beer and spirits from the owner, Don Marsh.

The Judson Candy Factory Lofts.
The Judson Candy Factory Loft street view.

Once a month, the Southtown area is host to my very favorite gathering, which is known as “First Friday.” First Friday is an event that brings the entire city together to wander the streets of Southtown and the galleries of Bluestar Contemporary Art Center. During First Friday, Bluestar opens its galleries to the public to showcase some of the most amazing creative talent in San Antonio. The medium is abundant and ranges from watercolors to sound and light. I was once lured into an upstairs apartment at Bluestar to witness an entire living area covered in yarn where I was promptly served cheese by a young woman who resembled Marilyn Monroe. “It’s a commentary about material abundance in the 1950’s,” she explained. First Friday is always exciting, unique, and interesting.

Making the choice to live in the downtown area has been a great decision for me. I feel that where I live is the source of great inspiration and adventure. I have spent much of my free time exploring the area and getting to know the people, but there is much more to do. From one day to the next there is something new to see or someone new to meet. I love knowing that I am a part of a community that is growing and becoming more dynamic every day.

The loft's pool.
The loft’s pool.

I will spend an entire weekend without having to touch a steering wheel. I love to have my breakfast and coffee at Madhatters, grab lunch at the Friendly Spot, catch a swim with my friends at the Judson pool or go hang out with the 1221 gang at their pool.

The evenings are when the area really comes to life. The downtown area is so diverse and has something to offer no matter what your mood.

The food in the area is unrivaled.

Urban developer Sam Nunnelly is the co-founder of Core Continuum Group.  Connect with Sam on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.