Better Block

Sunday, March 4 will mark the conclusion of Better Blocks’ hard work as they temporarily transform a desolate San Antonio block into a thriving business community.

Creative minds have met over a series of months to discuss what the future holds for San Antonio and its residents. Within this discussion, the city has begun a new urban revitalization initiative to condense, consolidate and rebirth our current stagnate economy.

Better Blocks, an organization created to help communities around the United States see the potential of their surroundings, will take a single overlooked city block and temporarily turn it into an urban paradise, made up of a coffee shop, Espumosa; local businesses, such as Fresh Urban Flowers and realty by SA City Home.

Once the location of a rundown, abandoned warehouse and office space, the block at Broadway and E. Jones Avenue will host five pop-up shops. Each business, in its designated area, will refurbish the building and streets with the help of local artists and volunteers, set up for the weekend, then close down and turn it back over to the city.

After realizing how hard and strenuous the process to obtain all the correct building and construction permits is, Better Blocks’ key focus is to knock out the hurdles that could prevent many people from making the big changes they would like to see in their community.

If successful, new businesses will then have the initiative to make the investment to permanently set up shop in the location and transform the dead space to a commercial hotspot.

Additionally, Better Blocks will host a kids’ art gallery, community garden, book store and one of the most unique ideas, a beer alley, which is sure to bring in curious, parched customers.

Once an overgrown jungle, the narrow space will be turned into a tavern hosted by San Antonio’s own microbrewery, Alamo Beer.

Volunteers and innovative minds alike hope the deserted San Antonio block will thrive like the original Oak Hill, Texas block, which is now a center with galleries, bike shops, coffeehouse and happy people.

At least one investor, Overland Partners Architects, has already made the leap. Set to open this summer, the modern architects will invest in the old plumbing supply warehouse found on the corner.

Their goal is to “keep the historical character of the building intact,” while creating “a really cool street presence.” The plan is to divide the warehouse into four quadrants. The front corner is set to become a coffee shop; Overland will take the middle space for a new office and the two remaining spaces have yet to be determined.

But the most impressive part is that one large section in the front will be renovated to create a shared courtyard with new trees to merge nature and invite people to the warmth.

With all these steps, committed businesses and help from the city and hearts of volunteers, can art find a home at Broadway and E. Jones?

For one volunteer, this could be his only shot. Riding the bus to a job interview, Joseph “Jae Special” Zamarripa simply stumbled upon volunteers working on the project one morning. He noticed another graffiti artist hard at work. All it took was one question: “Can I paint?” Zamarripa was given a six by twelve foot canvas to express himself. Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough paint to completely finish, but this Sunday, March 4, his work will be proudly displayed for thousands of San Antonians to admire.

For the longest time, Zamarripa thought, along with many artists, in order to be successful, especially in this new expression, an artist would have to escape San Antonio for a more liberally progressive venue. This may be one of the most important factors of the rejuvenated space, the fresh jumpstart the city needs to bring people of all types together.

To see what the Better Block project is all about, visit the corner of Broadway and E. Jones this weekend, Sat. March 3 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun. March 4 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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