Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Business owners express concern over I-35 expansion project

Alisha Dulaney

Every morning, assistant director Jaime Cano warmly welcomes hundreds of families into Escuelita del Alma, a daycare and preschool center decorated with care and full of well-loved toys and cherished memories. 

The center has served the community on the side of Interstate 35 since it opened in 2000. It’s stood for 23 years, through the 2008 economic recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, but will only stand there for a few more because of the Texas Department of Transportation’s I-35 expansion project. 

The daycare and preschool center is one of 111 Austin businesses being asked to relocate in order to accommodate the future growth of I-35. However, unlike other businesses, Cano said they are lucky to be receiving financial assistance from TxDOT because of their importance to the community. 

“(TxDOT has) determined that Escuelita del Alma is a business that, if unable to relocate, would have a very strong negative impact on the community,” Cano said. “They are working closely with us to make sure that we are able to successfully relocate.”

According to the TxDOT Relocation Assistance booklet, reestablishment and reimbursement of funds following relocation will be determined as necessary by TxDOT. Businesses are required to have 90 days of notice prior to their move date and the timeline to relocate for the respective businesses depends on construction timeline, property location and other factors, TxDOT said in an email. 

Other businesses along I-35 are reporting issues with TxDOT’s relocation request. So-Han Fan, founder of the tea spot West China Tea, said since they were deemed a relevant and critical business to the community by TxDOT, the relocation process has been less stressful.

“It was kind of scary and frustrating because we had this … fatalistic thing happening and we didn’t know when it was happening and we didn’t know what kind of support we were going to get, if any,” Fan said. “Now that we have someone working with us on (the relocation), … I feel satisfied that TxDOT is putting an effort into helping us.”

Han and Michael Kallstrom, manager of famous mineral and hippie hotspot Nature’s Treasures Texas, said being on I-35 gives them visibility for customers. 

“When we moved to the highway, we started seeing a lot of tourists,” Kallstrom said. “We started seeing a lot more students. We started seeing people from out of town that were just visiting for various reasons, as well as having more of a presence in those other communities that were already supporting us.”

Konstantin Allen, owner of floral shop Malina Flowers, said he feels his business is receiving little financial assistance. Allen said the help will not cover unpredicted expenses that come along with having to relocate. 

Despite having a minimum of 90 days notice to relocate, business owners are still expressing concern about the logistics and timeline of the move itself, especially as the holiday season approaches. Many, including Allen, wish the city was doing more to assist in the relocation. 

“(If) they’re giving such a short notice for you to move, at least give us an opportunity to find something or send someone to give us a property (or) find (somewhere) for us to move, …  but there is no help at all,” Allen said. “They just keep calling and reminding us about the date.” 

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