Painting the town

HARLINGEN — In the end, downtown won’t be pretty in piggy bank pink.

The merits of various shades of pinkness and their appropriateness for the historic district sparked a fairly vigorous debate yesterday at the Downtown Improvement District board meeting.

Marissa Martinez, owner of cheerleading center Cheer Haven, requested approval for a bright pink paint for the façade of her new business at 220A E. Jackson St.

Pink, she said, has been her signature hue for as long as she has operated, first on U.S. Business 83 and later on Tyler Avenue.

“We have a building across our street that is bright orange, a lot brighter than the color we’re using here,” Martinez told the board as they passed each other pink-colored paint swatches.

“That’s the building that attracted my attention when I drove by Jackson. I said, ‘This is a nice place for me to place my business.’

“I did go down in the tone of pink I wanted, that I usually have, because pink is the brand of my business,” she added.

The back-and-forth on shades of pink by the downtown board was, in fact, a serious discussion which revealed limits business owners face when it comes to locating in a historic district. The district’s guidelines prohibit overly bright colors for business facades, dictating instead a palette of earth tones for the fronts of businesses facing the street.

Downtown Manager Edward Meza, who said he personally liked the toned-down pink, read from the downtown district regulations that mandate business facades “coordinate with other colors on the block; bright and fluorescent colors are prohibited.”

“But there are no bright per se colors on the block,” board member Bill DeBrooke said.

“We did bring down the color of the pink a lot from what we were normally used to,” Martinez said.

“The color listed here is starlet pink,” said board member Lars Keim, holding up a paint swatch.

“No, that is not it — this is the alternate,” Martinez said pointing to another paint swatch. “If you believe that the first one I provided is too dark then I’m willing to go with the ‘piggy bank pink,’ which is a little lighter still.”

“Normally your branding is in your sign,” DeBrooke said to Martinez.

“Yes, but I’ve always had that pink building,” Martinez answered. “Right now my customers are telling me we couldn’t find you. We were looking for the pink building.”

“But we don’t allow pink buildings,” DeBrooke said.

“It’s not a dark pink, it’s a nice pink,” Martinez said.

Eventually the debate over the pros and cons of various hues of pink went to a vote, which ended 3-3.

Board Chairman Charlie Perez broke the tie, casting the deciding vote to reject starlet pink and piggy bank pink and, in effect, all things pink.

“I’ll have to vote that it’s a bright color, I’m sorry,” Perez said. “That’s a no.”

“Is it because you don’t like pink because it’s a girl color?” Martinez asked the board.

Martinez said she may have decided differently on locating her business downtown if she had known pink was going to prove such an insurmountable problem.

“I’ll be honest with you, if I would have known that pink was going to be an issue, I wouldn’t have placed my business downtown,” Martinez said.

The board then voted to approve a sign for the Cheer Haven business — yes, it does have some pink — along with approval of a signage grant for up to $576.10.