When I relocated from Sacramento in 2003, recently single, I began looking for an apartment to rent. I was astounded to discover Texas had relatively low property values compared to California. That convinced me it was feasible for me to buy a house.

I explored several neighborhoods around San Antonio. Three things attracted me to Wildwood One: the proximity to my (then) job on Boerne Stage Road, that it is a pipestem neighborhood (more on that later), and I took a fancy to a particular house in Wildwood.

Situated off Bandera Road just north of Leon Valley, the neighborhood was developed in the mid 1970s as affordable housing for workers at Kelly Field. Many current residents were the original buyers. By comparison with average house values in San Antonio, it is still an affordable neighborhood with starter homes for young families.

Out of an exaggerated sense of my handyman abilities, I bought a distressed house that backs against a green space at the very edge of the neighborhood. That green space is now a part of Leon Creek Greenway Trail, which is accessible from our backyard. Soon after, I met my wife, Vibeke, and together we began to rehabilitate the house and landscaping.

With a combination of do-it-yourself projects and professional help, all major systems and kitchen appliances have been replaced, windows modernized, and wood flooring laid. Most recently, we brought in a contractor to tear out a load-bearing wall to combine two rooms for an open floor plan to increase natural lighting, and, later, to modernize the guest bathroom. We have transformed a house that was frozen in time in the mid-‘70s to an open, comfortable home.

The interior of Nick and Vibeke’s home in Wildwood has been opened up, allowing for plenty of natural light. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Outdoors, the backyard was a blank slate. Fortunately, Vibeke is an avid gardener, and she quickly devised a landscaping plan that has evolved over the past sixteen years. I kept pushing for exotic plants, but after many failures, we have agreed to settle for Texas-hardy vegetation. A huge deck and covered patio have been added, improving opportunities for outdoor entertaining.

We love the fact we are surrounded by greenery, and Vibeke enjoys the parade of wildlife that creeps into our back yard from the green space after dark, including rabbits, raccoons, porcupines, opossum, armadillos, turtles, and skunks (oh my!). Occasionally, a deer will jump the fence.  It’s a regular Animal Planet back there!

Likewise, many of the 420 houses in the neighborhood have been remodeled and upgraded from their original design, and there has been some infill of new houses, so the neighborhood is still developing and evolving. Over the past few years, that has drawn a steady influx of younger families with children.

Artwork from Vibeke’s daughter greets guests in the dining area. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

I mentioned that I liked the fact that Wildwood is a pipestem design, meaning there is only one entrance and exit on Bandera Road.  The attraction to that is there is little non-neighbor traffic beyond the entrance. In addition, there are ten cul-de-sacs which are both a traffic-calming feature and a safety factor. Neighbors will take notice of “strange” cars or suspicious activity. My neighbor across the street has saved my butt several times by calling me at 11 p.m. to warn me that my garage door was open to thieves.

The neighborhood is tied together by the Wildwood Residents Association (WRA), a volunteer group open to homeowners and renters alike. The association has been fortunate to have had a series of effective leaders and a full slate of active Street Captains who help distribute the newsletter. WRA holds several activities throughout the year, including coordinated yard sales and a Christmas parade, and has won honors for its Neighborhood Night Out.  We have also been fully supported by our SAAFE officers and City Council member.

Situated halfway between Loops 410 and 1604, we have access in either direction to shopping and dining options. Just on the other side of Bandera Road you can find an H-E-B, Nani Falcone Community Park, and the Maury Maverick Public Library. Just up the road a piece is O.P. Schnabel Park.

Speaking of Bandera Road, I must confess traffic can be a problem during commuting hours. Since it is Texas State Highway 16, any plans for improvement require coordination among many different governmental bodies, including the City of Leon Valley. Those plans and discussions are already underway, with opportunity for public input. Given time and money, we can solve that problem, too.

After a 35-year career working for the federal government and living in five states and two foreign countries, I have now lived in San Antonio and Wildwood the longest of any place in my life. That has allowed me to get involved in the local community for the first time, first as president of the WRA, and then as an appointee to two City commissions.  I have served on the Municipal Civil Service Commission for a dozen years or so, hearing appeals from City employees of disciplinary actions. That has been very satisfying because it is a continuation of the kind of human resources work I did during my career.

Being a few years younger, Vibeke retired later than I, after a career as a licensed clinical social worker.  She has been the principal inspiration for many of the changes we have made in the house and yard, in addition to her passionate involvement in many social issues.

Wildwood One is not a historic neighborhood, nor is it an exclusive neighborhood, but we enjoy the hike-and-bike trail right outside our back gate and the backyard wildlife. After all the changes, this house and this neighborhood suits us just fine, and we have come to the decision that this will be our forever home.

Nick Lee

Nick Lee is a retired federal civil servant and Vice Chairman of the Municipal Civil Service Commission. He is on the board of the San Antonio chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and...