City of San Marcos officials are looking into grant and loan options to help ease the strain on local downtown businesses caused by construction.
Officials will not offer tax breaks or incentives to businesses that reported a drop in sales from construction since fall 2012, but grants and loans are possibilities, said city engineer Jennifer Shell. Shell said businesses may receive some grant money, but the funds would ultimately be loans because they can’t be used to reimburse companies. The city and assistant managers are additionally looking into other ways to aid these businesses.
Rebecca Ybarra-Ramirez is the executive director for the San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau. Ybarra-Ramirez said city officials are seeking funds to help downtown businesses, but money has not been allocated. She said the convention and visitor bureau is additionally working with city officials in order to send a consistent message to residents.
“Our staff has participated in the initial planning meeting,” Ybarra-Ramirez said. “The launch (of a program) will be determined if and when city funding is allocated.”
City spokeswoman Melissa Millecam said while officials would have “loved” to complete construction during the summer months when students are not in town, the process to finish road projects takes years. The projected cost for downtown reconstruction projects is $10.2 million, and will take about 23 months to complete, according to the city’s website.
Millecam said the city is looking for alternatives to help local businesses affected by the construction projects.
“We are developing a ‘shop downtown’ campaign with the help of the (San Marcos) Convention and Visitor Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Program, Downtown Association and local newspapers,” Millecam said.
Tamara Woehl, a retail associate at Emeralds, said city staff frequently email and visit retailers to notify them when streets will be closed and about details on the duration of the projects. City officials additionally handed out special parking permits for employees, Woehl said.
Superfly’s Lone Star Music Emporium opened last October. Manager Richard Skanse said Superfly’s is experiencing a promising trend in business despite frequent closures of parking lot entrances into the business’ new location on University Drive.
“It seemed like a new closure every week,” Skanse said. “I am ready for (construction) to be over with.”
Many businesses in the surrounding downtown area will continue to deal with construction projects through summer 2014, Shell said.
“What really concerns me is how much more construction will take place in the fall,” Shell said. “TxDOT is funding a lot of these projects, and the money will be ready in fall.”
Shell said late summer is the earliest time by which the city council will know about exact dates for future projects and subsequent phases.
Millecam and Shell both said they hope students will join the effort and patronize downtown businesses as often as possible.