City signs off on convention center floor plan

HARLINGEN — A pavilion might stand toward the entrance of the city’s $14.8 million convention center.

Last night, city commissioners approved the convention center’s interior floor plan and site layout featuring a Hilton Garden Inn hotel.

“We’re one step forward in this process,” Mayor Chris Boswell said after the unanimous vote.

As part of an agreement, the city will fund construction of the 43,700-square-foot convention center while San Antonio-based developer BC Lynd will build the attached 150-room hotel.

The convention center, with a parking lot including 623 spaces, is planned on 8 acres at the corner of Brazil Road and Teege Avenue in the Harlingen Heights business district, the layout shows.

The Hilton Garden Inn will be attached to it, with a parking lot including 149 spaces, on 2.3 acres at the corner of Teege Avenue and Harlingen Heights.

BC Lynd had proposed a Hilton Garden Inn or comparable upscale hotel, Boswell said in an earlier interview.

A corridor will connect the convention center to the hotel.

The layout includes an additional 43,300-foot pad planned for a future restaurant.

Commissioner Tudor Uhlhorn proposed building a pavilion near the convention center’s boulevard-style entry way.

The pavilion could host weddings and outdoor entertainment, Uhlhorn said.

“We want to incorporate that into this design,” City Manager Dan Serna said. “This is preliminary. We can still make changes to some of the layout.”

The pavilion would be built along a landscaped area near the boulevard-style entryway and a roundabout feature allowing for smooth traffic flow.

“One thing we try to do is beautify things and landscape,” Boswell said.

The convention center’s floor plan, which will hold as many as 1,503 people, includes a 17,100-square-foot main ballroom featuring the capacity to be divided into smaller meeting areas.

The building’s south side features spaces for smaller meetings.

“It lends itself to different-sized venues and different kinds of events,” Serna said.

As part of the city’s finance plan, the Harlingen Community Improvement Board, which generates a one-eighth cent sales tax to fund quality-of-life projects, will pay $9.7 million over a 20-year period to help pay off taxable certificates of obligation used to build the convention center.

The city, whose hotels and motels generate about $1 million a year in tax revenue, also will use $3.8 million from the hotel-motel occupancy tax fund to pay off the debt.

The city will pay for most of the land with $1.96 million from property tax revenue generated through Harlingen’s three tax increment financing reinvestment zones.

The Community Improvement Board will fund the remaining $800,000.