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City proposes four-month rent abatement for La Villita, Market Square tenants

by Benjamin GonzalezMay 29, 2020
Market Plaza closed Memorial Day 2020
The Market Plaza at Market Square is closed during Memorial Day, May 25. Photo by Ben Olivo | Heron

At Thursday’s City Council meeting, city officials proposed a four-month rent abatement plan for retail and restaurant tenants who lease space at La Villita and Market Square, as well as the International Center office building.

The proposed four-month rent abatement for the more than 100 small businesses at La Villita and Market Square would cover the entirety of tenants’ rent costs from April through July, Assistant City Manager Lori Houston said. City officials estimate the city will lose $1.9 million from revenue at La Villita and Market Square, as well as Alamodome concessionaires and the San Antonio Missions' lease of Wolff Municipal Stadium, should the season be canceled. Overall, the city expects nearly $200 million in lost revenues—from venue leases, sales tax, hotel occupancy tax, among other sources—because of closures related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The rent abatement is part of a larger $191 million mid-year budget adjustment in Covid-19 relief by the city. The larger proposal includes grants for small businesses, roughly $50 million toward housing security, and workforce development initiatives. While the proposal was open for discussion Thursday, the City Council is expected to vote on the plan June 4.

Tenants were originally told rent for the months of April and May, the months their stores were closed due to Covid-19, was "temporarily suspended." But the ambiguous language left them unsure whether they would need to pay back the rent.

Deborah Sibley, owner of Capistrano Soap Company at La Villita, said she's satisfied with the proposed rent abatement plan for her area.

"In March, (the La Villita Tenants Association) sent an email to the City Council members and city manager’s office asking for an abatement from April through July," Sibley said. "I’m very pleased that they’ve taken our suggestion and brought it to council, and I’m very hopeful that the council will vote to pass that.”

In addition, the city has frozen the annual increase in rent and maintenance fees for La Villita tenants for 12 months.

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The city-owned shopping districts of La Villita and Market Square have been closed since March 24 and the city plans to reopen them next week. Market Square will reopen June 3, and La Villita on June 4, according to city officials.

Business owners are preparing for the reopening with measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. This includes facemask policies, social distancing requirements, and consistent decontamination of surfaces.

Tenants of La Villita, Market Square may still owe rent for shuttered months
Shop owners at Market Square want upgrades, but not at their expense

Benjamin Gonzalez is a reporting intern at the Heron. He graduated from Trinity University with a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology, and can be reached at bencruzgonzalez@saheron.com, @BennyCruzG on Twitter.

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