Big Projects, Big Money: City’s wish list $47 million long

HARLINGEN — City leaders are racking up a wish list and it has quite a price tag.

About $47 million to be more specific.

Yesterday, city commissioners spent three hours talking about and selecting their top priorities from the city’s new 150-page 10-year plan.

Staff will now review the list before commissioners fine-tune the city’s goals, including a major street project, drainage upgrades and parks improvements.

Later, staff will develop funding sources before commissioners select the top projects.

During a two-year period, community input helped consultants Halff & Associates draft the plan called One Vision, One Harlingen Comprehensive Plan.

In yesterday’s workshop, department heads each presented about five priorities.

Then, commissioners and Harlingen Community Development Board Chairman Jesse Robles selected their top goals.

“These are the ones we want to get done in the near future,” Mayor Chris Boswell told city staff at the Harlingen Public Library yesterday.

Officials also will consider other projects in the plan, Boswell said.

“We want it to be a road map,” Boswell said. “We don’t want this to be a document that sits on a shelf.”

Among the priorities are the proposed$14 million convention center and the proposed $4.5 million renovation of the Baxter Building.

Next month, officials plan to finalize an agreement in which the city would fund construction of the convention center in the growing Harlingen Heights business district.

As part of the agreement, San Antonio developer BC Lynd would build an adjacent upscale 150-room hotel while operating the convention center.

Also next month, officials likely will know whether the Baxter Building’s renovation will proceed as planned.

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is expected to determine whether to award federal tax credits to help developers MRE Capital turn the city’s tallest building into a largely low-income apartment development.

Boswell also proposed planning for what consultants described as a “one-stop” city hall. That was far from the end of the list.

Other priorities included a $2.15 million project to pave Commerce Street from Taft Avenue to North Business 77.

“That’s our image,” said Commissioner Tudor Uhlhorn, who proposed the project. “That’s how we represent ourselves to other people how successful we are.”

Top priorities

– Convention center

– Baxter Building renovation

– Pave Commerce Street from Taft Avenue to North Business 77

– Develop Lon C. Hill Park into a destination park.

– Library improvements including a computer lab upgrade

– Drainage projects

– Fire department upgrades

– Harlingen Soccer Complex improvements

– Hugh Ramsey Nature Park improvements

– Extension of the trail system from Ramsey to McKelvey parks

– Development of all-inclusive playground at Victor Park