City officials agreed to delay City Council’s scheduled approval of a new lease agreement with Market Square business owners, pulling the item from Thursday’s council agenda.

City staff and Market Square representatives met Wednesday morning to discuss how to move forward with a new lease agreement, Farmers Market Plaza Association president Yvette Ramirez said. City officials agreed to delay putting the lease in front of City Council members to vote on, and will start contract negotiations with Market Square tenants next week.

“I feel that they listened and understood the importance of not rushing this issue, and how important it was to not only to the tenants but to the community as a whole,” Ramirez said.

Tenants of the City-owned Market Square properties fought to amend a new lease offered by the City earlier this year. The City owns El Mercado, which is home to retail stores; Farmers Market Plaza, which has food and retail vendors; and the outdoor plaza spaces. The current leases expire June 30.

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) said that he intends to carry negotiations on through City Council’s July break and have lease terms ready for approval in August.

“They’re requesting a little more time,” Treviño said. “That helps them feel better about the contract, and we don’t want to have that creating any undue fear or concerns by the tenants.

“No tenants are being displaced, no tenants are being kicked out. What we’re focusing on and working hard to do is help lay the path forward in the best interest of the city, and the best interest of the community.”

The proposed lease agreement gives Market Square business owners four years, with an option to extend for another four years. Some Market Square tenants want to retain the ability to sell their business and their lease at the same time, which the City does not permit with its other properties, Treviño said. Since 2011, 39 Market Square tenants have sold both their business and leases, he said.

“The City would like to make sure that goes through a fair and open process, known as an RFP [request for proposal],” he said. “So if someone wants to sell their business they can, but the lease cannot be sold. It goes through an RFP process. We think this is important to the process, as we’re trying to be more inclusive of small businesses. This is a key element to that.”

Market Square tenants and supporters lobbied council members Tuesday at an Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee meeting to return to the contract negotiating table. At the committee meeting, council members and citizens discussed how to plan for Market Square’s future. The City hopes to begin conducting surveys this month and have a report for Market Square in the fall.

Market Square tenants were able to gain more representation on the steering committee that will direct Market Square’s planning, Ramirez said. On Tuesday, Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) voiced her concern that only two people from the Market Square business associations represented the tenants’ interest.

“Now we make up a third of the total steering committee,” Ramirez said. “There will be five vendors total: two from each building, and of course one from the outside arts and crafts portion.”

Treviño said the planning process for Market Square’s future would not be affected by delaying approval of new lease terms.

“We got [the Market Square businesses’] commitment that they’ll be a part of that,” he said. “We will continue to move forward with them. And anybody else that anyone feels need to be included, we will include them as part of that and get started. Hopefully we’ll be able to be productive on the visioning process and come back early August and vote on the lease agreement.”

Ramirez said she was hopeful that all parties would be able to come to an agreement.

“We’re looking [forward] to working with the city and secure contracts that are fair and equitable for both sides,” she said.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.