Convention Center site needs leveling

HARLINGEN — Got dirt?

The city needs it to level part of the 8-acre site on which the $14.8 million convention center will stand.

And it’s going to cost them.

“There’s going to be fill,” Assistant City Manager Carlos Sanchez said yesterday. “I don’t know the extent of the fill.”

The city expects to receive a cost estimate by the end of the month, City Manager Dan Serna said.

Serna said the expense will become part of the overall project cost.

The need to level construction sites is not unusual, Serna said.

“All projects require some level of fill,” Serna said. “You want to be at a certain elevation above the curb line so water can run off to the drainage.”

In a meeting in January, architect Jeffrey Butler of the firm Butler, Rosenbury & Partners of Springfield, Mo., told officials fill dirt was needed to level what he described as a low-lying area at the construction site along Brazil, Horizon and Teege roads in the Harlingen Heights business district.

Serna said he expects the city to close the sale of the land by the beginning of next month.

“Everything is in place to move forward. We’re just waiting on the final pricing,” Serna said. “You want to review the pricing to determine total cost to determine if it’s within budget or under budget.”

In 2013, the city’s independent appraisal gave the site a market value of $1.69 million.

In 2015, negotiations between the city, landowner Ezequiel Reyna and BC Lynd led to a sale price of $2.7 million for the 8-acre site.

The site is part of an 11.25-acre tract appraised at $1.66 million, according to the Cameron Appraisal District.

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 Hospitality will build an attached 150-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel on an adjacent 2-acre site.

Reyna, a Weslaco developer, plans to build a restaurant on the remaining 1-acre site.

Mayor Chris Boswell has said BC Lynd wanted to build the hotel at the site.

How it Works

The city plans to fund most of the land purchase for the convention center with $1.96 million from property tax revenue generated through Harlingen’s three tax increment financing reinvestment zones.

Officials have agreed to take $601,312 from Zone 1, $1 million from Zone 2 and $367,162 from Zone 3, where the convention center and hotel will be built.

Pete Smith, a city-contracted tax attorney in Dallas, gave officials a legal opinion stating tax law allows the city to fund the construction project through the three zones because the convention center will benefit the city’s overall economy.

The Harlingen Community Improvement Board, which generates a one-eighth cent sales tax to fund quality-of-life projects, will fund the remaining $800,000 of the land purchase.