Subscribe to the San Antonio Express-News

Patricia Prieto couldn’t be happier with her new life on one of the oldest streets in San Antonio.

Patricia Pietro cuts the grass in one of the rentals she manages for an independent investor on West Euclid Avenue in San Antonio. Pietro lives in the back of this property with her boyfriend and their infant son.

(Carlos Javier Sanchez | San Antonio Express-News)

“I just like that I am in the middle of the city, but the street doesn’t feel like you’re in the middle of the city,” said Prieto, who also manages the property and several others in the area. “It just feels small and chill.”

New blood in the old neighborhood runs through much of Euclid Avenue, a 2-mile stretch of San Antonio that mirrors much of the city’s own past and progress.

A "Euclid" street runs through many American cities with turn-of-the-century neighborhoods. Our Euclid runs east to west through most of Tobin Hill and a little beyond, from Interstate 10 at Camaron Street to Hawthorne Academy on West Josephine Street.

Gentrification pressures are bearing down on homes all along the street, pushing up sales prices and property taxes. At one end, West Euclid near I-10, small old homes beckon young adults charmed by their character, the proximity to downtown and the new rentals available there. The other end, East Euclid near the Pearl, is seeing even bigger tax appraisals as developers tear down and transform neglected lots and structures into high-end multifamily communities and commercial properties.

SoJo Crossing at East Euclid Avenue and East Myrtle Street reflects the gentrification and development in the area around the Pearl.

On ExpressNews.com: It’s getting more expensive to own a home in Texas

Meanwhile in the middle, where East Euclid meets West at North Main Avenue, Texas classics Luby’s and Lulu’s Bakery & Café for years have operated near some of San Antonio’s best-known gay bars, a juxtaposition that reflects the city’s growing priority to balance the needs of the LGBTQ and business communities.

Like Prieto said, so friendly and so cultural. And like much of Euclid Avenue, so San Antonio.

This 1883 map of San Antonio shows how Euclid Avenue used to be called Macon Street. The city changed its name to Euclid in 1914.

“Euclid” is the name of the Greek mathematician Euclid of Alexandria, best known as the father of geometry. Around the turn of the century while laying out the then-modern grid system, city planners from Portland, Ore., to Portland, Maine, would name a street for Euclid.

San Antonio’s history is a bit more complicated. Our Euclid started life as 7th Street, but became Macon Street in 1881. It changed to Euclid in 1914 when the city argued it sounded too much like Mason Street. That year, firefighters went to the wrong street, a mistake that resulted in major property loss, according to a San Antonio Light article.

San Antonio Conservation Society librarian Beth Standifird thinks the name was chosen because Euclid is a giant sequoia tree, which would fit with other nearby streets named after trees, such as Laurel, Myrtle and Poplar.

True to its arboreal name, Euclid has grown over the years. In the 1880s when it was still Macon, the street ended at what’s now North St. Mary’s Street. By 1917, Euclid extended just past what’s now East Park Avenue. And in the early 1930s, the road reached its current conclusion at West Josephine.

A map of San Antonio from around 1917 shows Euclid Avenue before it extended to its current end at West Josephine Street.

Only around a dozen original homes dot West Euclid Avenue, most of them single-story, turn-of-the-century bungalows with exteriors that sport a range of conditions from peeling paint to fresh siding. The only other homes on that end are a block of newer pastel bungalows with white picket fences, built around a decade ago to echo the area’s surrounding architecture.

The homes are priced well below the city’s average sales price, attracting millennials. The most recent home sales on West Euclid averaged $133,100, up from $82,750 around 15 years ago, according to the San Antonio Board of Realtors. That’s still below the current city average of $267,071.

Prieto said she actually pays around $200 less in rent for living on West Euclid than her previous apartment, and that’s with more living space plus a yard. But price isn’t the only hook for the area. She feels more of her peers also are skipping the suburbs for homes with character closer to downtown.

“I love it,” Prieto said. “I think they’re so cute.”

Patricia Prieto cuts the grass at one of the rentals she manages for an independent investor on West Euclid Avenue in San Antonio. The millennial lives in the back of the property with her boyfriend and their infant son. (Carlos Javier Sanchez /Contributor | Express-News)Several bungalow apartments line West Euclid Avenue in San Antonio. The properties went up around 10 years ago with a style that’s a nod to the area’s architecture.

On ExpressNews.com: Why are high-income San Antonio residents increasingly renting their homes?

Juliana Huff, a 27-year-old interior designer who grew up in Alamo Heights, likewise loves West Euclid’s older curb appeal. On a recent afternoon as Prieto mowed her lawn, Huff had just finished a glass of wine and a walk with her boyfriend and dog before retiring to her own spruced-up bungalow with tan siding and a tin roof.

As the daughter of an architect, Huff said she has always appreciated character and craftsmanship in a home, qualities she cherishes in her own rental, right down to its solid wood doors.

“I think that character is what makes these homes so unique,” Huff said. “We (millennials) don’t gravitate to that new look. On the contrary, we admire what feels raw and real.”

Rodolfo de Leon, Juliana Day Huff and their dog, Godfrey, live in one of the bungalows on West Euclid Avenue in San Antonio.

Despite the area’s homes being priced below San Antonio’s market average, taxes are creeping up. The average tax appraisal in the area is $185,000, just above the city’s $181,905 market average, according to 2019 figures from Bexar Appraisal District. Average property taxes have spiked there 166 percent from 2009 to 2018, compared with the average 57 percent increase the rest of the city has seen.

The Office of Historic Preservation sees a love for such old homes citywide.

“We are observing this pattern in other areas of San Antonio as well, such as Denver Heights, Prospect Hills or Hot Wells,” OHP director Shanon Miller said via email. “Homeowners are interested in preserving these historic homes and the unique character of their community. Plus they are well located to the center city, which is where many want to be.”

Miller noted the OHP strives to inform the community about the significance historic homes through the Historic Homeowner Fair in the fall and several single-day Rehabarama events where volunteers help with minor repairs. The city also offers waivers for SAWS and city development fees for rehabilitating a designated historic home or a home that’s eligible for historic designation.

While most of the homes along West Euclid don’t have historic designation, residents see the character of those homes as something to build up and preserve instead of tear down or replace.

“I think it’s more genuine, and I do feel that people respect this city and admire its quirks and want to keep it that way,” Huff said, “and revitalize it in such a way its charm is maintained.”

Rodolfo de Leon and Juliana Day Huff take their dog, Godfrey, for a walk along West Euclid Avenue in San Antonio.

As West Euclid holds on to what little original residential footprint it has left, East Euclid marches on as with newer buildings and a commercial focus.

For decades, most of East Euclid looked like an urban wasteland of derelict lots and a couple of vacant motels. Then the nearby Pearl rose from the ashes of the defunct 19th century brewery to 21st century culinary and arts and culture hot spot. Now East Euclid’s own two dozen or so aging bungalows share the road with an increasing number of new townhomes and condominiums.

It’s the kind of full-tilt gentrification San Antonio knows too well. Recent renewal efforts have breathed new life into old homes in and around the city’s center, while replacing others with new high-end and higher-priced residences.

SoJo Crossing at East Euclid Avenue and East Myrtle Street reflects the gentrification and development in the area around the Pearl.

But such urban renewal, coupled with increasing property values and taxes countywide, also threatens to push out longtime and low-income residents. The displacement is such a concern, City Council recently approved a $1 million plan to help those struggling to stay in their homes or who have already been forced out due to rent spikes and redevelopment.

“It’s a choice of either sell and move out or adapt,” said Anthony Tobias, a longtime East Euclid resident who runs several businesses out of his home, including an Airbnb, to try to offset his rising property taxes.

The average tax appraisal along East Euclid is $266,000, 47 percent higher than the $181,905 city average. Property taxes have risen accordingly, jumping 126 percent from roughly $2,505 in 2009 to $5,669 for 2018, higher than the city’s average $4,862 tax levy for 2018.

Anthony Tobias moved to East Euclid Avenue in the early 1980s and runs several businesses from his home, including a floral design school and more recently an Airbnb, to capitalize on the nearby Pearl’s popularity and to also help pay property taxes. (René A. Guzman /Staff | Express-News)Larry Polinard, owner of Mr. Pencil Office Supply and Adtech Shredco, runs both businesses from what used to be a service station on East Euclid Avenue and North Main Avenue in San Antonio.

In 1982, Tobias scooped up an old Sears kit home on East Euclid. Today, that bungalow-in-a-box is home to Tobias’ floral design school, and well as headquarters for the Latin American Heritage Society, which Tobias founded in 2013 to promote Latino culture and continued education.

But it’s the Airbnb he’s rented out for two years that may be most emblematic of where San Antonio and its urban core are headed. Starting at $125 a night, renters can enjoy what Tobias calls a 200-square-feet chateau, which features a small living room, a tiny bedroom, a fully equipped kitchen and an antique bathroom.

Most people who stay there are artists and couples in their mid-20s to early 40s, Tobias said, adding that a few lovebirds have even gotten engaged in the outside hot tub.

“I’m seeing something that I never thought I would see in San Antonio,” Tobias said. “You see now more of a New York kind of life here.”

Last year, San Antonio-based SoJo Urban Development completed SoJo Crossing townhomes at East Euclid and East Myrtle. This fall, SoJo Commons will offer even more townhomes starting at the mid-$500,000s on East Locust.

SoJo Crossing resident Wendy Stieren Wirth said she loves how the Pearl has sparked a small arts renaissance right outside her door, with children’s outdoor music at the Turner Street Productions rehearsal space across the street and plans for a nearby coffee shop that will house individual art galleries.

“It’s wonderful,” said Stieren Wirth, a sixth generation San Antonio native. “I think it’s great that everybody’s coming down here.”

The Annex, one of the oldest gay bars in San Antonio, long stood at the intersection of West Euclid and San Pedro avenues, across from Child Advocates San Antonio. The Annex moved to East Euclid and Lexington avenues in late May.

For years around the intersection of Euclid and Main, child advocacy groups and some of the city’s best-known restaurants have shared the street with some of San Antonio’s best-known gay bars.

At West Euclid and San Pedro avenues, Child Advocates San Antonio long provided overflow parking to The Annex, one of the oldest gay bars in the city. Meanwhile near East Euclid and Lexington avenues, Lulu’s for years served up its signature giant cinnamon rolls to late-night patrons of what used to be the Saint, now the new home of The Annex as of last month.

It’s the kind of tolerance and neighborliness that San Antonio increasingly makes a priority at the city level as it advocates for the LGBTQ community. In 2013, the city passed an ordinance to prevent discrimination against anyone based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. And last year, city workers installed a rainbow-colored crosswalk nearby at the heart of San Antonio’s LGBTQ district on North Main with private funds from the LGBTQ community.

The city’s latest support for the LGBTQ community has made national headlines. Earlier this year, City Council barred Chick-fil-A from San Antonio International Airport after Councilman Roberto Treviño’s motion that he couldn’t support a fast-food company with “a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

“I think San Antonio is probably one of the more progressive cities in the state in regards to the LGBTQ community,” said Annex manager David Hall.

The Annex, one of the oldest gay bars in San Antonio, until recently stood at the intersection of West Euclid Avenue and San Pedro Avenue, across from Child Advocates San Antonio.

Hall has run The Annex since it got the name in 1997, though he figures the bar dates back to at least the late 1960s when it was called the Galleon. Little changed over the decades at the establishment’s old home, he said, noting the bar never had problems with any of its neighbors.

“We kind of watch out for each other,” Child Advocates President and CEO Marina Gonzales said before The Annex’s move. “And I will say, from a perspective of LGBTQ in foster care, we’re very aware of the diverse needs of our foster youth. So we try to connect with communities that can best represent their needs.”

The Annex should enjoy a similar supportive relationship with its new neighbors at its new location. Lulu’s general manager Christina Paul said the restaurant still beams with LGBTQ support right down to the staff wearing rainbow socks and glitter for the annual Pride “Bigger Than” Texas Festival at nearby Crockett Park.

“We love them and we support everybody,” Paul said. “It’s definitely a community around here.”

Back on West Euclid Avenue, longtime homeowner Virginia Guerra, who moved to a corner house at the literal end of the road back in 1982, said she’s at peace with whatever happens on Euclid or in the rest of the city for that matter. The 73-year-old widow gets plenty of phone calls from would-be buyers but has no intention to sell.

On ExpressNews.com: San Antonio’s Pig Stand diner has a heart that won’t quit

“I’m comfortable here, on this street,” Guerra said in Spanish.

As for Huff, she just hopes that as more young adults make Euclid Avenue and San Antonio their home, they only add to the character and culture of what came before them by revitalizing it, not replacing it.

“We’re all about enhancing what’s there,” Huff said.

Longtime West Euclid Avenue homeowner Virginia Guerra gets numerous calls to buy her home but has no intention of selling.

Design by Joy-Marie Scott.

Real news. Real trust. Real community. Subscribe to the San Antonio Express-News to support quality local journalism.

Source Article