Convention Center project won’t break ground as city officials hoped

HARLINGEN — Construction on a proposed $14 million convention center appears to be behind schedule.

Mayor Chris Boswell hoped to break ground on the project by mid-year.

The convention center is a 43,700-square-foot conference center planned for the growing business district anchored by Bass Pro Shops and Sam’s Club.

But now officials plan to launch construction in four to six months, City Manager Dan Serna said this week.

The city and developers continue to work to finalize an agreement expected within 30 days.

After the parties approve the agreement, the project will enter a design phase expected to take “a few months,” Serna said.

“There’s no holdup. This is not anything unusual,” Boswell said. “Any project like this takes time to work out the details.”

Boswell said the city and developer BC Lynd Hospitality are “very close” to finalizing the agreement and finance plan.

First Southwest, the city’s financial advisor in San Antonio, is expected to present the finance plan to city commissioners next month, he said.

“We’re still negotiating the definitive agreement,” Boswell said. “We feel we’re very close.”

Boswell has called the convention center a decades-old goal aimed at pumping tourist dollars into the city’s economy.

The city plans to build the convention center while BC Lynd, a San Antonio-based developer, would fund construction of the adjacent 150-room “upscale” hotel.

As part of an agreement, BC Lynd would operate the convention center while splitting profits with the city.

The convention center’s construction will be financed through “various” sources but will not rely on taxpayer dollars, Boswell said.

Boswell said $1.7 million will come from property taxes generated within the city’s three tax increment financing reinvestment zones.

The city plans to sell about $8 million to $9 million in certificates of obligation to help fund the project, he said.

Boswell said the city will pay back that debt through sales tax revenue generated through the Harlingen Community Improvement Board, which operates with a $2.7 million fund balance while generating about $1.3 million a year.

The city, which generates about $1 million a year in hotel occupancy tax revenue, also plans to dip into those revenues to pay back the debt, he said.