Universal City and Live Oak leaders aren’t going to let the novel coronavirus ruin their respective milestones this year.
The two neighbors are both observing a 60th anniversary, but under different circumstances than originally planned thanks to changes necessitated by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are still a hidden little gem in the middle of San Antonio,” said Mary Dennis, Live Oak’s mayor for 10 years.
The cities owe a debt of gratitude to Randolph Air Force Base, now Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, which has been an economic hub, said Universal City Mayor John Williams. The military installation itself is enjoying a 90th birthday this year.
“I have been privileged to be part of Universal City and its growth, and it’s great to see a city prospering thanks to the stability of Randolph,” added the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.
Live Oak will recognize its achievement during various city-coordinated events during the remainder of 2020, starting Halloween night when officials distribute observe souvenirs, such as mugs and Fiesta medals, to patrons driving through Main City Park, 18001 Park Drive.
Children get a bag of candy.
The community originally wanted to observe the diamond mark at its annual Shindig on Shin Oak before the pandemic afflicted countries worldwide, City Manager Scott Wayman said.
Meanwhile, from Sept. 3-4 Universal City employees at the municipal office also gave out mementos including coffee mugs and stress balls. The borough planned to acknowledge its first six decades during the Veterans Parade and Movies in the Park annual festivities, said Regina Carmona, community-relations specialist.
Despite changes, both cities still intend to party hard.
Retail developments such as The Forum at Olympia Parkway, which opened in 2000 and crosses the boundaries of Universal City, Live Oak and Selma, and Ikea, launched in 2019 in Live Oak anchoring the planned Live Oak Town Center, have spurred local residential expansion.
According to U.S Census Bureau data, Live Oak’s population rose from 9,100 denizens to 15,000 from 2000 to 2013.
Universal City saw a similar jump from 14,849 to 19,290 during the same time frame, according to town demographics.
“The Forum kind of changed the posture of the community,” said Wayman, a Live Oak resident since 1987. “A lot of people sat up and took notice of our region due to that shopping center. … We’ve certainly added a lot of residents and happy families who can seek out the American dream in our region.”
Officials noted the towns’ success has a lot to do with a long association with the military.
A recent historical article in Universal City’s magazine credits the Air Force’s Headquarters Air Training Command’s relocation to Randolph from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, in 1957, and the Air Force Personnel Center’s transition from Washington, D.C., to the base in 1963 as accelerating growth.
Such moves fueled developments including the city’s first McDonald’s in the early 1970s, and the Olympia Hills Golf & Event Center in 2000.
“When things were problematic, or a recession would take place, the stability of JBSA-Randolph helped our communities immensely,” said Williams, a 40-year Universal City resident. “The progress that Universal City, Live Oak, Cibolo and Schertz have made has been due to the stability of Randolph and those missions.”
There’s a lot more work to be done in the next 60 years, Metrocom officials said.
Williams said Universal City should prioritize redevelopment, as the town is currently landlocked. Leaders are looking into revitalizing Aviation Boulevard.
Dennis said her city must prolong technological advances and continue to purchase water rights to maintain growth. Live Oak’s water system serves two-thirds of its residents, while San Antonio Water System services the rest, according to Live Oak’s website.
Despite its burgeoning success, Live Oak has kept its hometown feel during the decades she’s lived there, Dennis said.
The bustling Interstate 35 North corridor caused the mayor to initially take notice of the region, which she and her family moved to from San Antonio in the early 1990s.
At the time of incorporation in 1960, Live Oak boasted 316 inhabitants. The number now is closer to 18,000. Once famous as the home of the “Donkey Lady” Dorothy “Doc” Anderson, who lived in a residence without utilities in the O’Connor Road area from the 1960s until her death in the 1990s, it’s more known presently for sprawling retail and residential growth.
Anderson raised a rare breed of pink donkeys.
Meanwhile, Universal City’s population when the town was formed numbered 1,800 souls, according to the town magazine. Today, a projected 20,890 folks reside there, based on census estimates.
Many original settlers of what would become Live Oak and Universal City included German immigrants or their descendants.