Market Square merchants concerned over proposed lease contract with vague wording

SAN ANTONIO – Market Square business owners are concerned about their future at the historic shopping center after the city gave them a proposed contract that they say has vague wording.

“We don't want a Taco Bell here,” said Javier Ramon, a Market Square business owner. “I don't think that's what we need here.”

A Taco Bell isn't slated for Market Square. But these are the type of chains that current merchants fear will take their spots in the future.

The buildings include two city-owned properties: El Mercado and the Farmers Market Plaza, off of Commerce and San Saba streets.

The business owners aren't happy with the city's proposed lease contract. They say they have shorter terms and the wording is vague.

“The way it was set up at the very beginning, it was made for mom-and-pop businesses, not for corporations,” said Jaime Herrejon, who owns Little Mexico Imports in Market Square. “They don't have the feel for the people and the love and the passion we actually have.”

Herrejon grew up in Market Square. He inherited his mother’s store that started 45 years ago. It sells imported Mexican goods.

Herrejon is in the same situation as many of the merchants who have been in Market Square for generations. Now the small businesses are fearful that the city has plans of bringing corporations into Market Square and pushing them out.

There are over 100 local merchants that do business in the two city-owned buildings in Market Square. The building where Mi Tierra is located is owned by the Cortez family and is not involved.

The current eight-year contract for the businesses is up at the end of this month.

Now, the city is proposing a four-year contract. When that time is up, the business owners can choose to renew another four years. But some say the vague language in the contract brings up more questions about what happens after the first four years.

“It leaves it very open to tenants not possibly being in their same locations, to tenants not being here at all,” said Yvette Ramirez, president of the San Antonio Farmers Market Plaza Association.

Ramirez said the contract is not clear on what the rental rates would be in the additional four years, as well.

District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino said the city doesn't have concrete plans for Market Square’s future, but city leaders are working toward improving it.

“Some things may be rebuilt, some may not,” Trevino said. “Not knowing what those spaces are it's hard to determine exactly what that is.”

When asked if corporations are part of the plans, Trevino said there are potential partnerships, but the current tenants will not get kicked out.

“We also know that there's potential partnerships that overlay that allows these places to grow,” he said.

Trevino said the city wants the Market Square tenants to be part of the conversation.

The Farmers Market Association said it wants to come to an agreement that has the best interest for both sides.

“We definitely want to be included in the visioning process here at Market Square,” Ramirez said. “We are asking to bring a couple more board members or tenants to be part of that process.”

City Council must vote on the new contract before it is finalized. There is not a set date for when that vote will happen.

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