Phase II of Café Commerce. Courtesy photo.
Phase II of Café Commerce. Credit: Courtesy / Café Commerce

Rome may not have been built in a day, but local entrepreneurs, coders, and citizens are hoping to create an app this Saturday at Café Commerce’s first monthly unHackathon. Deemed by their website as the “day we spend making things with computers that make life better with some free food,” volunteers will attempt to develop an application that enables individuals to gain information about empty, leasable downtown real estate, while providing an avenue for locals to suggest what could occupy the spaces.

City Council’s recent approval of the Vacant Building Ordinance will also provide data and support for such an app.

Launched this summer at the San Antonio Public Library, Café Commerce is an organization sparked by the SA2020 initiative to encourage entrepreneurship in the city. In the same way that Café College assists students with the college preparation and application process, Café Commerce was designed to be a one-stop resource center to support small businesses and entrepreneurship.

Café Commerce President Peter French
Café Commerce President Peter French

“The point is to create a dialogue between entrepreneurs and people who support entrepreneurs,”Café Commerce President Peter French said. “It’s been a neat thing seeing the community build organically.”

Recently, the 80/20 Foundation and Accion have created a $500,000 Downtown Retail Loan Fund that is administered by Café Commerce. But in spite of the available funds, many folks don’t know what buildings are available for lease downtown, what they are zoned for, or the associated rent. Café Commerce is hosting this unHackathon as an awareness effort and provide a tool for would-be entrepreneurs to fill up the unsightly, vacant retail space downtown.

“One of the persistent issues and things we hear at Café Commerce is that it can be very difficult sometimes to get real-time information about these vacant spaces. That’s frustrating for them and a deterrent for filling up the space,” French offers. “The hope is that this app will tell you immediately how much space is available, what it can be used for, who you can contact if you want more information.”

French also anticipates that the resulting application would facilitate a two-way exchange of ideas between a potential business owner and consumers on what venture would be successful there.

Café Commerce logo

While people with coding proficiencies are needed, French advises that there’s plenty of room for folks who don’t have that technical programming skill. People with other skills and experience— such as being a current or aspiring downtown retailer or even a person who wants to support downtown — are encouraged to attend.

“We all approach the world in different ways, and if we feel empowered to (challenge) why things are the way they are, we can make them better and can create a lot of value,” French says.

The unHackathon takes place this Saturday, Sept. 13, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Volunteers can RSVP for the event on Café Commerce’s Meetup page and are asked to stay the entire day. Validation is available to defray the cost of parking at the library’s main garage, and Cocina Heritage will be catering the event.

*Featured/top image: Phase II of Café Commerce. Courtesy photo.

Related Stories:

Café Commerce: One Stop For San Antonio Small Business Startups

Small Business Wins Big in City Council

Vacant Building Ordinance Could Be Game Changer

City to Vote on ‘Long Overdue’ Vacant Buildings Ordinance

Garrett Heath blogs for Rackspace and is the Average Joe that started SA Flavor. He loves San Antonio, especially eating at mom and pop Mexican food restaurants.