SAN ANTONIO - From destruction to salvation, an abandoned university campus in south San Antonio that had become a magnet for crime and vandalism is finally being cleaned up.
Giant excavator machines and work crews have brought down four of the eight gutted buildings on the former campus of the Baptist University of the Americas on the access road on I-35 South near Zarzamora Street.
The property was sold to the Baptist General Convention of Texas last year when the school moved to a new location.
That group put the property on the market, but during an asbestos remediation project, there was some confusion over permitting and the property sat idle for months.
Neighbors said that gave transients the green light to move in and they had been dealing with theft, vandalism, graffiti and arson.
One neighbor, who didn’t want to be identified out of concern for crime, said that she was happy when KENS 5's Eyewitness Wants to Know became involved and made phone calls on behalf of the neighborhood.
"Action was taken the day after it ran on television and code compliance was there. Their fence was put up, grass was cut, buildings were cleaned up. We just thank you," the woman said.
She added that school children who passed by the dangerous site every day had been threatened by the transients who had been hiding in the abandoned buildings. She said calls to city offices for help resulted in no action.
“I had emailed our city councilman and never got a response, so the next step was to call you to see if some action would be taken,” she said.
Not only is the property being cleaned up, but the demolition work has resulted in an unexpected blessing for a church near the work site.
When members of the First United Pentecostal Church on the 400 block of Gillette saw that a chapel building was headed for demolition, they said that they immediately took action to see if they could salvage the steeple of the building.
“We remodeled our building but we were needing a steeple and we asked," church member Eloy Aguilar said. "They gave us a number. I talked to a lady in charge and they gave us the steeple.”
Aguilar, who helped haul the pieces of the steeple onto a trailer for the short drive to its new home, said that they’re not sure how they will lift the heavy structure to the top of their building.
"Not right now, but we'll figure it out with God's help," Aguilar said.
While this campus on the freeway access road has been troubled, it is important to note that it is the former site of the Baptist University of the Americas. When the school sold the property, they moved to a new campus just one block north at 7838 Barlite.
The school was recently recognized as providing an excellent cross-cultural experience for Hispanics who want to pursue studies of faith. School administrators said that they are in the midst of a capital campaign that will fund even more positive growth and development.
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