Council Approves Utility Loan Pilot Program For Blanco Road Businesses
A new city pilot program is helping businesses along the Blanco Road construction corridor that are taking a financial hit due to the work. But what about other businesses in the city also affected by construction?
The 20-month Broadway and Hildebrand project began in January 2013 and will be completed this summer. But when Jon Lindskog, the brains behind Cheesy Janes Burgers, approached the city for help with lost sales, the city told him there's nothing they could do.
"It's just the cost of progress," he admitted. "My only, I guess, frustration is that out of a $15 million bond issue that there can't be some help for lost sales. But I must say that the city's been really good to work with."
Lindskog said he's seen up to 40 percent in lost business because of the construction in front of Cheesy Janes, but there is a light at the end of his tunnel.
Last Thursday, the city council approved a business assistance pilot program for businesses affected by another ongoing project: Blanco Road.
"We have an obligation to keep businesses open if they're suffering as a result of work that we've done," said District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal, whose district includes the Blanco Road work.
Bernal told his colleagues at Thursday's council meeting that Blanco Road hasn't been touched in decades.
But not all council members like the program, which will loan businesses money for their utility bills. Even though a possible 100 businesses could be eligible along Blanco, the city expects only 25 to take part. That would account for an estimated $8,000 out of the city's pocket.
Councilman Ron Nirenberg doesn't think the city should be obligated to help out because construction is a part of progress.
"The concern I have is that it creates a policy, even if it is a pilot, it does create a policy," he said at the public meeting. "It puts us on a path as a city that says we're going to fill that gap."
The gap was never filled for Lindskog, despite his requests of the city. Still, Cheesy Janes has been all right during the Broadway construction because Lindskog bought two food trucks to take his business out to people instead of them coming to the restaurant.
"It helps to keep the employees employed," Lindskog said.
City leaders say if the pilot is successful, the program could extend to other areas where construction is hitting businesses hard.
For businesses who accept the help, repayment of the loan will depend on how much business has been lost. For example, a loss of 15 to 20 percent would have to be repaid within a year. If the loss is over 25 percent, the business would have two years to repay the loan.
The program begins immediately and will end in September, at which time the city will evaluate the its success.