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'Los Courts' chronicles SA's first public housing project

Jessie Degollado

Several large panels frame old photographs of what life was like for the thousands of residents who once lived in the Alazan-Apache Courts on the near West Side, also known as "Los Courts."

“I hope this exhibit will challenge stereotypes about public housing,” said Dr. Sarah Gould, director of the Museo del Westside , which is set to open next year.

Gould said she often hears how many former residents had children and grandchildren who went on to earn college degrees and became successful in their respective fields.

“That’s a story I hear over and over again,” Gould said.

Gould said the exhibit, a joint project with the Westside Preservation Alliance , “will make people think about what’s the next big idea we can come up with to help people with affordable housing.”

David Nisivoccia, president and CEO of the San Antonio Housing Authority, or SAHA, said the following in a statement:

“At SAHA, we respect the culture and history of the Westside and have intentions of honoring it in efforts to revitalize the community.”

He said SAHA is committed to preserving its history while modernizing the development.

“Due to the lack of funding resources for public housing authorities across the nation, we have to be innovative and strategic about our approach to revitalize the community," Nisivoccia said.

He said once funding is secured, there will be community meetings to get the input of residents.

According to the SAHA , 1,238 residents currently live in Alazan’s 480 units on the near West Side. Gould said it was originally built for 5,000 residents, many of them displaced after San Antonio’s deadly Great Flood of 1921.

“That’s an amazing number of people to move from substandard housing conditions into what at the time was state of the art,” Gould said.

She said "Los Courts” are among longtime San Antonio landmarks, such as the Riverwalk and the restoration of La Villita, which were made possible through President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal to help America get out of the Great Depression.

Dr. Gloria Rodriguez was 3 years old when she and her widowed mother of five moved into Alazan for two years before their own home was built in the early 1950s.

Rodriguez is the founder and now retired president and CEO of Avance, a nationally recognized parenting program. She said after a period of gang violence in the 1990s, residents asked that Avance build a center in Alazan-Apache.

The result was the Carmen Cortez Avance Center .

Rodriguez said Avance was created so that low-income parents could learn how to give their children the care and attention her mother gave her own family. She said despite their circumstances, she wanted families to learn from her own mother that “there’s hope and there’s opportunity, and there’s a better life.”

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