San Antonio – In the current economic climate and housing crisis, business loans, affordable mortgages, emergency mortgage assistance and quality of life resources are in high demand. Today St. Mary’s University President Charles L. Cotrell, Ph.D., announced the University’s far-reaching neighborhood revitalization efforts designed to respond to the immediate needs of the community.
Cotrell announced the details and scope of the University’s neighborhood revitalization project, outlined the services that a new resource center housed on the University campus will provide to residents and business owners, and the hiring of the project director who will coordinate all revitalization programs and initiatives.
“As an urban Catholic university with a long history in San Antonio, St. Mary’s is dedicated to being a responsible corporate citizen and responsible neighbor,” said Cotrell. “As part of this community and a major employer, St. Mary’s has a vested interest to help our neighborhood thrive. It is part of our 156 year history, and our Marianist tradition and mission to advance the common good through community service and outreach.”
The University’s revitalization effort is part of St. Mary’s five-year strategic plan, Vision 2012, which was laid out by Cotrell in 2007. It calls for the University to collaborate with its neighbors to revitalize the areas surrounding the campus and to be more actively involved in community outreach, development and improvement. The Neighborhood Revitalization Task Force – formed in response to Vision 2012 – identified the target areas to include University Park and parts of the Jefferson/Woodlawn Lake, Prospect Hill, Loma Vista, Memorial Heights, Loma Park and Third World neighborhoods.
“The Task Force’s efforts began more than a year ago,” said Task Force Chairman Ramiro Cavazos, president/CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a St. Mary’s alumnus. “St. Mary’s is providing the leadership to put together a comprehensive plan for revitalization. The Task Force, the University and all of our partners are collaborating to address this community’s pressing needs now. The current state of the economy makes accelerating our efforts even more important today.”
The first step in phase one of the neighborhood revitalization project was taken today by announcing Steve Nivin, Ph.D., the former chief economist and industry development manager for the City of San Antonio, as the project’s director. Nivin was chosen as project director because of his expertise in economic development, preparing economic impact studies, market research, community development plans and identifying community infrastructure improvement needs. His background and resources ensure that residents, homeowners and business owners seeking assistance will get the help they need. Nivin will also be an assistant professor of economics at St. Mary’s.
Phase one also includes the opening of a resource center. When it is fully operational in January 2009, the center will serve as the community’s epicenter for change. Housed in the AT&T Center for Information Technology on the St. Mary’s campus, immediately inside the University’s Culebra Road entrance, the center will be easily accessible to area residents.
“The center is the physical mechanism to deliver to residents those housing, economic development and volunteer resources they themselves have identified as most needed in their neighborhood,” said Nivin.
An affordable housing counselor will provide low-income area residents with fair housing counseling and homeownership education, including pre-qualifying mortgage application services. Assistance to home down payments, emergency mortgage and utility payments, and home repairs will also be available. A social services caseworker will assist the housing counselor by verifying eligibility for services as well as help to provide credit counseling and information about existing City services for work readiness training and child care. Loans and technical assistance for small businesses will also be provided through the University and the project’s partners.
Staffing and the future opening of the resource center were made possible by last month’s nearly $600,000 HUD grant, awarded to St. Mary’s through the Hispanic Serving Institutions Assisting Communities program. Additional leveraged funds for the revitalization project have come from private and public sector partners, including the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio Alternative Housing Corp., Community Development Loan Fund, Citi Foundation, ACCIÓN Texas, St. Mary’s University Alumni Association and the City of San Antonio. The City also designated the area as a Partnership Project with a $10,000 grant. This is the first step in possibly being awarded a Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization grant of $370,000, over a six year period.
St. Mary’s faculty, staff, students and alumni will also provide 4,500 hours of technical assistance and community service through service learning and organized community improvement and beautification projects.