Feb 24, 2023 - Politics

St. Mary's Strip construction woes lead to new fixes

Illustration of an open briefcase with a "road work ahead" sign

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As construction work on the St. Mary's Strip dragged on, business owners rachetched up pressure on city officials to help them.

  • Leaders have implemented or suggested changes to how San Antonio handles large road construction projects near business corridors.

Why it matters: Policy proposals can transform how the city carries out future projects, expanding impact beyond The Strip.

Yes, but: Many business owners have blasted the changes, saying they don't do enough to help or that they come too late to make a difference on North St. Mary's.

The latest: District 1 Councilmember Mario Bravo, who represents The Strip, proposed last month cracking down financially on contractors that fall behind. He suggested:

  • Awarding daily financial bonuses to contractors that complete a project ahead of schedule.
  • Fining contractors daily when they miss a deadline.
  • Giving any fines collected to small businesses within 500 feet of that construction project.
  • "Doing so can help ensure that small businesses survive to reap the benefits of a newly completed construction project," Bravo's proposal reads.
Other responses

Marketing: The city budget includes $400,000 for a pilot program intended to raise awareness that businesses are still open throughout construction across the city. District 4 Councilmember Adriana Rocha Garcia led the push.

Grants: After criticism of the marketing plans, the city began offering grants of up to $35,000 for local businesses impacted by road construction.

  • The program is open to businesses in 15 city construction zones.
  • The minimum grant award is $10,000. Somewhere between 60 and 80 businesses could benefit.

What they're saying: Aaron Peña, co-owner of The Squeezebox on North St. Mary's, isn't impressed by the efforts.

  • "I don't think there's any reversible move that can take back the damage that's been done," he tells Axios.
  • He applied for the city's grant and other opportunities, he says.
  • Sean Wen, co-owner of Curry Boys BBQ on The Strip, holds a more optimistic view.
  • "As long as we're trying," he says.

The bottom line: The uproar stems from the community's love for The Strip.

  • "I've worked very hard to be a part of what it is and what makes it cool and attractive," Peña says.
  • "Nobody here wants to think that The Strip isn't gonna exist in five months or a year," Wen says. "All of us are doing whatever we can to put roots in as deep as possible so it can continue being a spot that's a cultural hub for the city."

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