It's difficult to entice San Antonio's suburban population to the central business district because of real and perceived parking challenges.
To help address this issue, civic and business leaders came up with the concept of Downtown Tuesday. Parking is free in all city-owned downtown garages, lots and meters from 5 p.m. - 2 a.m. on Tuesdays – that is, except at the Houston Street garage when there's a show at the Majestic Theater.
Now two years old, Downtown Tuesday has led to 73,000 more cars coming downtown on Tuesday evenings over the last two years, according to District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal.
"I know Tuesday will never be like Saturday night," quipped Bernal, but it's a great opportunity to bring people downtown on an otherwise slow night.
As such, Downtown Tuesday is a low-risk opportunity for the Center City Development Office. Tuesday nights are traditionally the slowest nights for bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues. If hardly anyone was coming anyway, why not make it free? The loss of parking revenue is offset by the increase in business. This sort of progressive thinking is critical to downtown revitalization.
To make a concept like this work, collaboration with downtown establishments is key. Currently, more than 70 businesses and museums are participating in the program, offering Tuesday evening specials on meals, drinks, and entertainment. "We're making good progress, and I'm excited about the future of the program as more San Antonio residents rediscover their downtown," Bernal stated in a press release.
This early-morning event was not only intended to celebrate the second anniversary of Downtown Tuesday, but also to announce a new quarterly event called Be-Cause.
The first Be-Cause happening will be held this evening, Tuesday, March 18, 7-9 p.m. at the Esquire Tavern, located at 155 E. Commerce St.
Entertainment will be provided by the Tomcat Miller Trio.
Admission is $15 at the door, which includes appetizers, a specialty cocktail, and a raffle entry. A portion of the proceeds from each Be-Cause event will be donated to the United Way of San Antonio.
An RSVP can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In June, Be-Cause will set up shop at The Last Word – Brooklynite owner Jeret Peña's new project – making its home on Houston Street, next to Bohanans. In August, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts will host the event, the day before its grand opening. A tour of the facility will be made available to all participants. And of course, parking will be free at nearby city-owned facilities.
Downtown revitalization undoubtedly has a long way to go. It's very much a chicken-and-egg proposition. If more people lived downtown, there would be a greater mix of retail and entertainment. If there was more to do and places to shop downtown, people would be more inclined to live in the area.
Breaking this impasse is challenging at best. It's the small, yet meaningful, steps that make the difference. Grocery stores (however small), revitalization of empty buildings, and free parking are all things that are intended to help make this the Decade of Downtown. Perhaps by 2020, we will indeed see a transformed central business district that attracts locals as well as tourists.
However small a step it may seem, Downtown Tuesday is an integral component towards achieving these lofty goals.
*Featured/top image: (From left) Assistant City Manager Carlos Contreras, District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal, and Center City Development Office Director Lori Houston unveil a photo image of the Downtown Tuesday logo. Photo by Page Graham.