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I originally grew up in the New Territories neighborhood on the far Northwest Side of San Antonio. When my family first moved there, the area was still considered the outskirts of town and sparsely populated. I vividly remember my mom taking me around the neighborhood to walk through the homes when they were just frames on concrete. This was well before the construction of the bustling Alamo Ranch and Bandera Pointe shopping centers that now squeeze together New Territories and the adjacent neighborhoods.

These days, it’s just another community that has been engulfed by the westward suburban expansion of San Antonio. Having been there from the beginning, it’s been amazing to see how quickly the area has developed. For a few years during the 2010s, it was considered one of the fastest-growing areas in the country and it’s emblematic of the type of growth you see throughout the city

To many San Antonio natives, their hometown has always been a small town disguised as a big city. Despite the remarkable growth that we’ve experienced over recent years, it’s hard to get out of that mindset. Like a lot of people who grow up here, I thought San Antonio was boring. When considering options for weekend activities in high school, it seemed like all we had was the movie theater or Fiesta Texas. Compared to nearby Austin, where I spent a lot of time because my parents both went to the University of Texas, San Antonio felt uneventful and uninspiring. I remember telling myself I would get out as soon as I could.

After graduating from Communications Arts High School in 2011, I ended up enrolling at UTSA with every intention of transferring to UT-Austin. But my freshman year at UTSA coincided with the beginning of the “Decade of Downtown” and that completely changed my perspective on San Antonio. Not to mention, UTSA football was entering its inaugural season and the university was continuing to grow. Witnessing all the excitement in San Antonio and the urban core really opened my eyes to the possibilities in my own hometown.

I decided to stay at UTSA and was able to explore more of the city and give it a chance for the first time. I learned that there’s a rich, complex history here beyond the Alamo and the Missions. It supplies a vibrant art scene, a growing tech industry, and visionaries in all sorts of fields working to improve the city.

After graduating, I accepted a position at Frost Bank and moved downtown next to Market Square. I wanted to be in the middle of the action and get the true urban core experience. I continued to explore San Antonio like I never had before.

Eventually, I met my girlfriend Amanda and we soon outgrew the tiny studio apartment we had been living in. After a long search, we found an apartment near the old site of the Westlakes Mall on the city’s far West Side. Our neighborhood is tucked between the Heritage and Meadow Village communities.

Many of our colleagues at Frost advised us to live near two highways so that we could drive to other branches if necessary. Being right by Texas State Highway 151 and Loop 410 certainly makes the commute to work smoother and gives us easy access to other parts of the city we frequent.

Since leaving Frost Bank to work independently, I have a greater appreciation for my apartment and the amenities at my complex. The timing of my decision to become self-employed coincided with the pandemic, so it initially wasn’t an ideal environment for building business relationships. But like most, I have adjusted to the work-from-home routine and enjoy the flexibility of being able to take our dog Hova out for a walk in the middle of the day. It also allows me to meet with more of my clients since I can fit more virtual meetings into my workday.

Zach Espericueta walks his dog Hova through Wheeler Park which features a walking trail around a pond just down the street from his apartment. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Right across from our apartment complex is Wheeler Park, which has a pleasant little duck pond where people sometimes go fishing. My girlfriend and I enjoy walking around the pond with our little dachshund, and he loves interacting with the ducks. Having access to multiple parks was one of our priorities when looking for a new home, and this neighborhood provides that.

We’re not far from Heritage Duck Pond, and Tom Slick Park is only a short drive down the road. There’s an H-E-B Plus nearby for all of our groceries, and the Westover Marketplace is across the highway when we want to shop. When we don’t feel like cooking, our neighborhood has a great selection of restaurants and food trucks. One of our favorites is Acadiana Cafe, which serves excellent Cajun food and has fortunately survived during the pandemic.

The Dalian Monterrey Village apartments sits along greenway trails and features quick access to multiple highways. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

As I mentioned before, we are tucked between two areas and I’ve found that are startlingly different despite their proximity. To the north of us, you’ll find newer, well-maintained developments, while to the south and west, it’s working-class families in neighborhoods that could use more resources. It’s a contrast that really highlights the socioeconomic divides in our city.

Throughout this area and much of San Antonio, an improvement that is greatly needed is increased walkability. I’d love to be able to walk to other nearby areas safely and have restaurants and markets all within walking distance. Especially for attracting younger people to the city and keeping natives here, it’s going to be important for San Antonio to be a place where you don’t always need a car to get to where you’re going. That, of course, also means improving our public transportation system.

The pandemic also presented me an opportunity to do more for my hometown. I started the SA Talk podcast in June of 2020 as a way to showcase more of the city to newcomers and skeptics. As a San Antonio native who at one point couldn’t wait to get out, I understand that sentiment when I come across it in others. But I know it’s one that comes from not having the full picture. Hosting the podcast has not only been a way to continue to learn about my hometown and the people who make it great, but also a means to show those skeptics what they might be missing.

San Antonio has so much to offer in terms of culture and community. The people here truly care about each other and look out for one another. I hope to continue doing my part in changing some minds about this wonderful city I call home.

Zachary Espericueta is an independent advisor who specializes in retirement strategies and life insurance. Zachary helps promote financial literacy and is the host of the SA Talk Podcast.