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City seeking federal funds to create jobs in Plaza Saltillo area

Monday, January 31, 2011 by Elizabeth Pagano

Council has approved a resolution authorizing an application for up to $2 million in Brownfield Economic Development Initiative (BEDI) Grant funds and up to $8 million in Section 108 Loan Assistance Program funds, both aimed at funding inner city revitalization.

 

The city plans to use the federal funds to aid four businesses in the Saltillo Plaza Transit Oriented Development District, creating an anticipated 209 jobs. According to the terms of the grant, 51 percent of the new jobs are required to be within the community…

 

The grant is set up to improve “brownfields,” which are inner city properties characterized by pollution and disinvestment.

 

Kevin Johns, director of Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services, explained that Saltillo Plaza was chosen due to its potential for revitalization.

 

“We tried to find a location that had a master plan that would be competitive and to be competitive you have to have some kind of a hook, some reason why they would fund you instead of Detroit or Cleveland or other locations,” said Johns. “The plans for Saltillo are really beautiful neighborhood plans, where they are calling for this to be kind of ‘The Hispanic Downtown of Austin.’“

 

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez opened the discussion by noting his support and launching into a discussion about the ongoing construction on East Seventh Street.

 

“The one thing that is being brought to light that I am concerned about, and I hope that we can address as well as what we are doing here today, is that we have some businesses on East Seventh Street that are being severely impacted by the construction project that has been going on,” said Martinez.

 

Johns stated that the Saltillo projects was intended to be the first step in a citywide effort to revitalize urban corridors, and that they would be looking at East Seventh Street after construction was complete.

 

“We would intend to come back and offer assistance to our small business development and go to the federal sources again and see if we can’t get them back up to the top,” said Johns “Then they will have a better infrastructure, more traffic, and a better curbside appeal.”

 

Martinez expressed the need to communicate these future plans to business owners that have been negatively impacted by construction. He worried that they felt ignored and left out as the city pursed BEDI grants.

 

“I just want to make sure that we have good communication strategy planned and we are letting them know that not only are we going to assist them during this difficult time,” said Martinez. “But once it’s all over and done, we’re coming back around to lift you up to where you once were and hope you get better.”

 

Johns noted that news of the grants has spread throughout the business community in Austin, and the reaction has been positive. “We’ve been approached by businesses in Montopolis and on Airport Boulevard and other areas,” said Johns. “We haven’t gotten the first one, but now that they are aware we are going to do this, they’re encouraging us to go forward.”

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