Heimann Building and AVANCE, Inc.
Texas | 2005 National Preservation Honor Award Winner | Posted: 10/19/2005
AVANCE is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that has been providing parenting, early childhood education, adult literacy and family support services to low-income, high-risk families since 1973.
In 2003, AVANCE undertook the historic preservation of the Heimann Building in San Antonio, Texas to serve as the National Headquarters for the organization. The Heimann Building was originally built in 1909 and designed by architect Atlee B. Ayres. The Heimann Building is located on the historic cattle drive path known as the Chisholm Trail in a neighborhood called "Cattleman Square." Its first life was as the I&GN Hotel across the street from the I&GN railroad station.
The I&GN railroad station was known as the Gateway to Mexico. It is where people entered the U.S. when escaping religious oppression and expulsion from Mexico in the early 20th century. This intersection was at one time considered the busiest corridor in the city and was where the first traffic light was installed. In addition, the I&GN Hotel was one of the first hotels in San Antonio to have a telephone.
In 1999 when the building was donated to AVANCE the Cattleman Square district was overrun by the homeless as they made makeshift homes under the Commerce Street bridge located a half block away and waited for the Soup-Kitchen. It was the meeting point for day laborers, and drugs and alcohol abuse were prevalent. Today, as a result of AVANCE`s recent historic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Heimann Building, great strides have been made to revitalize the community and give back its historic character.
One major focus for AVANCE organizationally is to build relationships within the communities in which they are located. The Cattleman Square district is no exception. The AVANCE curriculum involves a comprehensive parenting program for children birth to 3 years of age that strives to help parents become their child`s first and most important teacher. It is at the National Headquarters that curriculum is developed for use in the core parenting program--immediately making its way to our service sites.
The National Headquarters also houses an Early Learning Academy for very early-aged children. The Academy is a living laboratory that includes a dual language, bi-cultural, museum-like setting focusing on individual and creative development. In keeping with the AVANCE mission, a number of spaces at the Early Learning Academy are reserved for children of the homeless families living at a nearby shelter. Diversity is key at AVANCE and the children of downtown executives and the homeless learn from each other in this exceptional learning environment. This facility offers extended hours, low student-teacher ratios and degreed and credentialed teachers.
Training Rooms with state-of-the-art technology is also a feature of the AVANCE National Headquarters Building where area nonprofit organizations brainstorm and join forces to serve the most underserved population of the city. The City of San Antonio and the Annie E. Casey Foundation have utilized the training facilities as they find that the building is inviting, centrally located and very accommodating to their needs.
AVANCE`s historic rehabilitation project included a unique job-training component that employed AVANCE program participants who received general construction training. These individuals developed new skills and as a result of their experience with this project are no longer dependent on government funding. Throughout the organization, the principal workforce pool is program graduates who gain experience working in a professional environment, and in most cases go on to other employment while others have been with AVANCE for nearly 30 years.
The positive impact of the Heimann Building`s new life goes beyond structural beauty. It includes a drastic decrease in drug traffic and quality childcare in a blighted, depressed section of the city. The building as a whole has had a steady stream of community leaders and nonprofit professionals utilizing the classrooms and meeting space for reaching out to the public and bringing new faces to this formerly neglected area.
With the help of many members of the community, including the San Antonio Conservation Society, AVANCE has taken this historic building to its original beauty. This building not only gives AVANCE permanence, it will be a place in which the organization can grow and fulfill our mission and it will symbolize what AVANCE represents: renewed life and energy and the transformation of people, buildings and communities. AVANCE symbolizes hope and opportunity. The Heimann Building will be the central catalytic force for the redevelopment of the Cattleman Square, a community that had long been ignored and neglected.
For more information contact:
118 N. Medina Street
San Antonio, Texas 78207