San Benito seeks approval for downtown grant program

SAN BENITO — The city’s Economic Development Corporation has to sign off on a new program offering grants to help downtown merchants spruce up their storefronts.

Last night, city commissioners postponed a report on the new program to await approval from the EDC, the program’s funding source, Mayor Celeste Sanchez said after the meeting.

As part of the program, the city will offer grants of up to $10,000 to match downtown property owners’ investments aimed at improving their storefronts.

The program is part of a project to revitalize the downtown area, once the commercial hub of northern Cameron County.

“It’s a long time coming,” City Commissioner Esteban Rodriguez said after the meeting, referring to the city’s revitalization project. “We have a goal now — to see if we can bring it back to what it used to be.”

For decades, facelifts have stripped many downtown buildings of their original beauty.

By the 1960s, metal sheeting began covering up much the buildings’ grandeur.

Now, city-funded grants could help property owners restore some of the buildings’ hidden charm.

“If we can help the merchants and they’re willing to get into this program and meet us halfway, it’s great,” Rodriguez said.

As part of the project to revive the downtown area, the city has contracted with Bernard Rodriguez, Weslaco’s former downtown manager who helped spearhead a revitalization project that led to the renovation of the Cortez Hotel.

In 1999, the Texas Main Street Program named Bernard Rodriguez its New Manager of the Year.

Bernard Rodriguez said he plans to organize key players as part of the drive to revitalize San Benito’s downtown.

So, he has set a meeting with downtown business owners for 5:30 p.m. May 11 at the San Benito Chamber of Commerce.