City plan for businesses damaged by lengthy construction flouted

San Antonio – A city plan to ease the impact of lengthy construction projects on nearby small businesses has not assuaged their concerns.

Small businesses are suffering from the seemingly never-ending work on Broadway and North Street. Mary’s Street said they needed help paying their bills as revenues slumped. But the city’s $400,000 pilot project, the Small Business Construction Mitigation Initiative, presented at a committee meeting Friday, revolves around marketing and signage to encourage people to visit the businesses.

Reactions to the approach have ranged from overwhelmed to acrimonious.

Grunt Style chief executive Glenn Silbert supported the plan moving forward, but called it a “chip”.

“It should be part of the project, first of all. Right. I mean, any project should be branded. These communications plans should be in place ahead of time,” Silbert said.

Augustin Cortez, Jr., whose Augie’s Alamo City BBQ Steakhouse is across the street from Grunt Style on Broadway, was visibly exasperated when he spoke with the Economic and Workforce Development Council.

“Let’s think about it: ‘We need more signs to let people know we’re open.’ What’s the point of that? Someone please explain it to me,” Cortez said.

Cortez said his store on the corner of Broadway and 9th Street lost 80% of its business when construction closed the street. He told KSAT that he had been “stealing from Peter to pay Paul”, withdrawing funds from his second restaurant near Brackenridge Park to cover expenses.

He’s not sure his business will survive the spring, but a Public Works spokesperson told KSAT that the Broadway stretch is not expected to be completed until August 2023.

“CPS, SAWS, our taxes, maybe some kind of rent and/or mortgage relief will help us stay afloat until this project is completed,” Cortez told KSAT.

But that help wasn’t included in the construction mitigation plan, which council members added $400,000 to the FY 2023 budget.

“We know this is not a direct grant,” Assistant Director of Economic Development Ana Bradshaw told KSAT after introducing the pilot program on Friday. “If we were going to do a direct assistance program, it would need a larger amount. So we’re really working on mitigation strategies to help small businesses that are impacted by construction.”

Aaron Pena, owner of The Squeezebox in St. Louis, Mary’s Street, tweeted that the plan was “about how to effectively waste 400k on useless (expletive) PowerPoint presentations and avoid it altogether. For small businesses that are dying because of your construction.”

Committee members said they were willing to examine other ways to provide grants and direct assistance to affected businesses. However, with city council activity wrapping up for the holidays, it’s unlikely the issue will be discussed until next year.

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