Growing up on San Antonio’s Northeast side, if you told me I would be living on the South Side throughout my late 20s, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. After graduating from Communication Arts High School, I went to Texas State, got my degree and moved out of state. Five years later, the opportunity presented itself for me to return.

My first visit to the South Side was for my interview at Brooks. The campus and surrounding area were undergoing a lot of development, so there was a stark contrast between the campus I visited then and what it is today. But I saw the potential. Brooks had a vision of serving as an economic development engine that would attract jobs and bring prosperity to the entire region, and I wanted to be a part of it.

Connie Gonzalez stands along the Greenline at Brooks which is just outside of her apartment. Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

When I declared my intention to live on the South Side, everyone I told was skeptical and nervous about me living alone. Despite all the stories I heard about the South Side, I’ve never once felt unsafe. For me, that has a lot to do with the tight-knit community that exists here. People take the time to get to know their neighbors and they look out for one another. For me, that community feel brought with it peace of mind and a sense of safety and comfort.

Like me, many of my neighbors live, work, and learn right here on the Brooks campus. My apartment complex at The Kennedy is home to a blend of graduate students, young families, and empty nesters. Whether it’s through game nights and fun activities hosted in our apartment common area, attending Brooks-sponsored events, or just seeing people out exercising and enjoying campus, there are plenty of opportunities to build relationships with my neighbors. I’m especially jealous of the students and professors I know from the University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine, who have an even shorter commute to work than I do (and mine is a whopping 4 minutes), since our apartment complex is right across the street.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to be part of building the community here, both as an employee and a resident. When I first moved to the area it was still sparsely populated. There was a lot of construction happening, but it was unusual to see someone running or walking on campus. We were Brooks City Base then – today, it’s just Brooks and Brooks is now an energetic hub of activity for the South Side and beyond. The campus is alive with activity – whether it is the construction of new restaurants and retail options, outdoor movie and live music nights, or just people utilizing common areas like the 43-acre Greenline linear park, there is always something happening at Brooks.

The Greenline Park at Brooks. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

As a result, our community is growing every day. Brooks established itself as one of our city’s fastest-growing zip codes, attracting a variety of new residents. Though my job as the director of strategy and community relations at Brooks may make me a little biased toward this area, living and working here has provided me the opportunity to fall in love with San Antonio all over again.

About a year after I moved in, my mom and stepdad decided they liked the Brooks area so much that they wanted to call it home, too. They traded their home in Northwest San Antonio for an apartment at The Kennedy at Brooks because they liked the area, the availability of options, close proximity to downtown, and it significantly reduced my mom’s commute to work. As a family, we have shifted many of our holiday celebrations to the Embassy Suites at Brooks. The only full-service hotel south of downtown San Antonio, the restaurants special holiday celebrations have come in clutch for Easter and Mother’s Day. It’s also where I usually bump into my mom and her friends enjoying happy hour at Nineteen17 Restaurant & Bar.

Connie Gonzalez walks in front of The Kennedy. Credit: Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Like many of us, the recent stay-at-home order provided me a newfound appreciation for where I live and how accessible everything is. Within two miles of my apartment at The Kennedy are major retailers – H-E-B, Target, Walmart, and Lowe’s – and a wide variety of restaurant and retail options, from chains to family-owned and operated small businesses. When I first arrived, we were waiting for the delivery services to expand to this area – now we have Shipt, Uber Eats, Door Dash and Favor. After getting my local favorites delivered I can walk out the back door of my apartment building on to The Greenline and go for a run. The easy access to beautiful green space has been especially beneficial during these challenging times.

One thing my experience as a Brooks resident has taught me is that the South Side is not what it once was, and where I live is nothing like the stories I’ve heard. If you haven’t been to Brooks or the South Side, or if it’s been a while since you last visited, it might be time to come back. I can almost guarantee you’ll be surprised by what you find here – I know I was.

Article originally published here: Where I Live: Brooks