Harlingen commended for revitalization of main street

NEW BRAUNFELS — Downtown Harlingen is home to a popular farmer’s market, educational walking tours, musical jams, art walks, running events and much more.

With a 93 percent occupancy rate and a mixture of businesses spread across the 18-block area, some could say the revitalization of the downtown area during the past 25 years is a model to other communities around the state.

This past weekend, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) commended Harlingen for successful annual progress as a designated Main Street community, one of 58 to be recognized this year.

This is the 10th year in a row Downtown Harlingen has attained national accreditation. Harlingen is the only downtown in the Rio Grande Valley to achieve the accreditation.

Downtown Harlingen manager Cheryl LaBerge said although she was on hand to pick up the award, it was on behalf of all the people who are involved in Downtown Harlingen, all the events that occur there and anyone interested and passionate about the downtown.

“This is not about me,” she said yesterday, a day after returning from New Braunfels. “This is about what we do as a community. We are all out there making a huge difference.”

Downtown Harlingen is a public improvement district established in 1989 to foster economic growth and redevelopment in the historic city center.

Since the 1980s, Downtown Harlingen has gone from abandoned to more than 93 percent occupancy.

Today there are more than 170 businesses and organizations in the 18-block downtown district, as well as families that reside in spacious upper-story lofts.

Several criteria are analyzed to determine whether the downtown is recognized. That includes the partnerships formed, volunteer efforts, events, building renovations, reinvestment, financial status, reports, training and preservation.

Accredited programs show above average performance in the 10 categories on an annual report.

The state office also works with programs throughout the year by providing various services based upon local needs.

LaBerge called it a huge accomplishment.

“This is not just us saying it,” she said about the honor.

The Texas Main Street Program (TMSP) began in 1981 as one of the first state coordinating programs in the country. 2016 marks TMSP’s 35th anniversary.

Local Main Street programs focus on responsibly utilizing a community’s historic assets for economic benefit and to increase quality of life. During 2015, more than $216 million was reinvested into Texas’ 90 Main Street districts. Additionally, 327 small businesses and 1,710 jobs were created.

LaBerge said efforts in downtown Harlingen show a consistency, especially being recognized 10 years in a row.

“We are making progress,” she said. “We have had a lot of new thing the last year.”

Those include new businesses and events, some of which are engaging a younger group of people to come downtown.

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