East-side neighborhood fights for community center's future

The Ella Austin Community Center has been a part of the east-side community for more than 100 years. On Tuesday night, some of the very people who grew up there attended a meeting to stand up for the center's livelihood.

The Ella Austin Community Center is a place to play, learn, and even enjoy a much-needed meal. A place for families, and people of all ages.

It's been a part of the east-side community for more than 100 years. On Tuesday night, some of the very people who grew up there attended a meeting to stand up for the center's livelihood.

“If we allow them to keep pushing this away, we're going to lose our culture on the east side, and that's just not acceptable to me,” said one woman, who noted that her family has been living in the area for about 50 years and doesn't want to see the center go.

The non-profit has a building lease with the City of San Antonio that expired at the end of May.

Instead of its traditional five-year lease, where the city provides the building for a dollar per year, the city is considering a shorter lease, a one- or three-year agreement.

That’s something community leaders say could impact donors and grant money.

“With that one year, we wouldn't be able to do anything. It would take a year for us to wind down, find another space, move out,” said community activist Salena Santibanez.

For Santibanez, it's personal. She used the community center growing up and credits it for much of her education.

“This was one of the few places I could come to for resources, to access higher education,” she said.

Another concern is that the city will re-purpose the building into something the entire community won't be able to use.

Cruz Shaw, the new city council member-elect for District 2 was in attendance Tuesday night in support of the center staying. He will be sworn in on Wednesday.

Leaders say that they not only need a new lease agreement, but also need the funds for improving offices, bathrooms, and kids play areas.

KENS 5 reached out to the city and a spokesperson said that they didn't have an update on the agreement but added that they hope to reach one soon.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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