SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio City Council Thursday approved the execution of nine leases for current and new businesses in La Villita.
The controversial move is part of an effort to revitalize the historic shopping area which has experienced sluggish economic output in recent years.
So far, 15 leases were awarded to retail stores, working artist studio galleries, art galleries, and a restaurant. The city will continue the process of filling the remaining vacancies.
"The offerings needed to be evaluated. I think there were infrastructure issues, there's a lot of conversation about parking," said Felix Padron, the city's director of culture and creative development.
According to the city, 22 proposals were submitted for 21 spaces. Some business owners who have been in La Villita for decades were rejected or decided to not apply for a lease extension.
"Their lack of management is really my main concern and the main reason I did not renew my lease," said Barbara Garrett, who operates Originals Beads, Jewelry, and Gifts. "The city mismanaged it for so many years. Everybody that lives in San Antonio will pay for it in the long run due to the mismanagement."
Garrett said the decision has forced her to move her business to the Alley on Bitters.
Another business owner who did not want to be identified said the application process was too onerous. Despite having operated her store in La Villita for 24 years, her application was rejected.
"My application was 65 pages long. They asked about my business model, what I can do to improve La Villita," she said. "They have a point system and they said I did not meet the criteria of the point system."
A panel of stakeholders thoroughly examined the applications. Padron said those that were not accepted can reapply in the future.
"It is our responsibility to give that best product possible, so that means that we need to continue evaluating as we move forward," he said. "The idea here is to continue to give everyone equal opportunity to continue to improve their game, their business plan, their model for us -- to again entertain and review them and hopefully they become successful again."
In addition to the leases, the city will pump approximately $600,000 into the area for much-needed infrastructure improvements and a marketing campaign.
Melvillyn Adame, owner of Villita Stan Glass, had her lease extension application approved. She's know in the process of negotiating her lease, and saying goodbye to her neighbors.
"It's sad," she said. "Their family."
Some customers are not too thrilled about the move either.
"I don't like the way it was handled," said Carol Jenkins, who has been shopping at La Villita shops for more than 40 years. "I think it just sucks, to use the common vernacular."
The full list of businesses that reapplied are as follows:
- Little Studio Gallery
- River Art Group, Inc
- CASA Clasal International Inc
- Villita Stained Glass
- Noahmaya Candle Co
- Lone Star Mercantile
- B&C Feathers and Jewelry
- Walt & Cynthia Glass
- Plaza Taxco
- Naturaleza Celestial
- Artistic Endeavors Gallery
- Rainey Populuxcommissary/House Paint
- Equinox (A Jewelry Gallery by Alejandro Sifuentes)
- Casa Manos Alegres
- Foto Memories by Zubair
- Yellow Rose Gallery