It’s official: Convention center to be built in Harlingen

HARLINGEN — After years of planning, the city will build a convention center.

In a meeting yesterday, city commissioners and members of the Harlingen Community Improvement Board approved agreements with developers B.C. Lynd Hospitality and Ezequiel Reyna to build the $14.8 million convention center next to an upscale 150-room hotel.

“This is a big day for the city of Harlingen,” Mayor Chris Boswell told officials and developers. “We’ve been working on this for a long time. It’s a new beginning.”

The city will borrow $13.5 million in taxable certificates of obligation to build the 43,700-square-foot convention center.

It will be located near Teege and Brazil roads in the Harlingen Heights business distinct, near the Bass Pro Shops development.

Over a 20-year period, the city will use $9.7 million generated through the Community Improvement Board’s sales tax and $3.8 million in hotel-motel occupancy tax revenue to pay back the debt.

The city also will use $1.75 million in property tax revenue generated within its three tax increment financing reinvestment zones to help fund the project.

All along the process, Boswell has said no taxpayer money will be used to directly fund the project.

Anne Burger Entrekin, the city’s financial consultant with First Southwest in San Antonio, said the city plans to sell the bonds at interest rates as low as 3.15 percent — the lowest rates since the 1960s.

Now, the project will enter a design phase expected to take “a few months,” City Manager Dan Serna said in an earlier interview.

Serna said officials plan to launch construction within six months.

As part of the agreement, B.C. Lynd, a San Antonio developer, will fund construction of the hotel while leasing and operating the convention center.

The agreement calls for a hotel such as a Hilton Garden Inn, a Marriott, Starwood or Hyatt.

The city and B.C. Lynd will split the convention center’s profits or losses.

Developers project “mild profits” during the convention center’s second year and “a couple of thousand” of dollars’ profit after the venue begins to establish itself, Brandon Raney, B.C. Lynd’s chief executive officer, told officials.

As part of the agreement, the city will pay about $2.2 million to Reyna, a Weslaco developer, for about eight acres of land near Teege and Brazil roads.

According to the agreement, B.C. Lynd will operate and manage the convention center for an initial 10-year term, with renewal options, paying operation and maintenance costs.

Raney estimated annual operating costs of $1 million.

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Breakdown of financing sources

Three tax increment financing reinvestment zones: $1.7M

Hotel-motel occupancy tax revenue: $3.8M

Harlingen Community Development Corporation: $9.7 million