City program for businesses hurt by lengthy construction is met with scorn

Business owners want more help with bills, but the Construction Mitigation Program’s $400K budget is largely for marketing

San Antonio – A city program meant to ease the effect of lengthy construction projects on nearby small businesses isn’t easing those businesses’ concerns.

Small businesses suffering through the seemingly perpetual work on Broadway Avenue and North St. Mary’s Street indicated they want help covering their bills as their revenue takes a dive. But instead, the city’s $400,000 pilot, “Small Business Construction Mitigation Program,” presented in a committee meeting on Friday, revolves around marketing and signage to encourage people to visit the businesses.

The reactions to that approach ranged from underwhelmed to acidic.

Grunt Style CEO Glenn Silbert supported the program moving forward but called it “table stakes.”

“This should have been part of the project, to begin with. Right. I mean, any projects should be branded. These communication plans should be put in place ahead of time,” said Silbert.

Augustine Cortez Jr., whose Augie’s Alamo City BBQ Steakhouse is across the street from Grunt Style on Broadway, was clearly exasperated as he spoke to the Economic and Workforce Development Committee.

“Let’s think about that for a second: ‘We need more signs to let people know that we’re open.’ How does that make any sense at all? Someone please explain that to me,” Cortez said.

Cortez said his location at the corner of Broadway Avenue and 9th Street had lost 80 percent of its business due to the construction that has shut down the street. He’s been “stealing from Peter to pay Paul,” he told KSAT, pulling money from his second restaurant near Brackenridge Park to cover costs.

He’s not sure his business will last past spring, but a Public Works spokesman told KSAT the work isn’t expected to finish on that stretch of Broadway until August 2023.

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

But that kind of help isn’t included in the construction mitigation program, which came out of council members adding $400,000 into the FY 2023 budget.

“We knew that was not intended to be direct grants,” Assistant Director of Economic Development Ana Bradshaw told KSAT after presenting the pilot program on Friday. “If we were to do a direct assistance program, that would need to be a larger amount. So we really sought to hone in on developing mitigation strategies to help the small businesses impacted by construction.”

Aaron Pena, owner of The Squeezebox on St. Mary’s Street, tweeted the program was a “PowerPoint presentation on how to effectively waste 400k on useless (expletive) and completely avoid giving it to small businesses who are dying because of your construction.”

Committee members indicated they were open to looking into other ways to provide grants and direct assistance to affected businesses. However, with city council activity winding down for the holidays, it’s unlikely that will even be discussed until next year.


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About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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