Harlingen ‘gateway’ to receive makeover

HARLINGEN — For decades, a grassy field dotted with bushy native shrubs and shaggy Mexican fan palms marred the city’s gateway.

So when the city received a $250,000 grant as part of the Governor’s Community Achievement Award last year, local leaders planned a major make-over of the Interstate 69 underpass along Harrison and Tyler avenues.

In a meeting today, city commissioners are expected to authorize the Texas Department of Transportation to use the money, along with about $153,000 in local funds, to landscape the area.

“That grassy area is an eyesore,” Melissa Boykin, executive director of Keep Harlingen Beautiful, said yesterday. “That’s an area we thought we needed to focus on.”

As part of the project, the city will plant flowering trees such as royal poinciana, wild olive and orchid trees across a 320-foot by 240-foot area under the overpass, Javier Mendez, the city’s parks director, said.

Mendez said the project also will landscape nearby stretches along Harrison and Tyler.

“It’s going to be a huge improvement aesthetically for people coming into Harlingen,” Mendez said.

City leaders selected the Harrison and Tyler underpass because it has become the city’s gateway near Valle Vista Mall and the fast-growing Harlingen Heights shopping district anchored by Bass Pro Shops.

“That was one of the areas where we thought we could make the biggest impact,” Boykin said.

The landscape will feature about $43,500 worth of flowering, native trees and shrubs.

Officials selected native trees and shrubs because they are hardier and require less maintenance.

As part of the project, officials will install lighting under the overpass.

Mendez said the project is expected to be completed by January.