Baxter project: What’s next

HARLINGEN — It took decades to find a way to renovate the city’s tallest eyesore.

Now, it could take more than a year to complete the job.

Last week, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs awarded MRE Capital $3.3 million in federal tax credits to help fund the building’s historic renovation.

Daniel Sailler, a developer with MRE Capital, estimates the $4.5 million renovation project could take 12 to 14 months to complete.

“I’m excited to move forward and start construction,” Sailler said yesterday.

Since the late 1960s, the nine-story office building had fallen into disrepair, decades after serving as one of the city’s premier addresses at 106 S. A St.

For about 30 years, the city searched for ways to renovate the historic building that had become one of the city’s biggest eyesores, Mayor Chris Boswell said.

Since he won election to the mayor’s post in 2007, Boswell said he made the building’s renovation one of his goals.

In late 2015, the city entered into an agreement with MRE Capital to renovate the former flop house, blamed for standing in the way of the downtown area’s revitalization.

As part of a contract, MRE Capital agreed to pay the Harlingen Community Improvement Board $250,000 for the building on the condition the Department of Housing and Community Affairs granted the developers federal tax credits to help fund the renovation project.

Under its proposal, MRE Capital planned a $4.5 million project to turn the building into a 24-unit apartment development largely made up of low-income housing while restoring it to its original condition.

How we got here

For nearly two years, the city and the developer overcame setbacks as they worked to convince the Department of Housing and Community Affairs to grant the tax credits.

Last Thursday, the city appeared at the verge of undertaking what Boswell has called one of its biggest renovation jobs.

“As a city, we look forward to getting it renovated for the constructive use of all our citizens,” City Manager Dan Serna said yesterday. “All the pieces are falling together. Right now, everything is positive, going very well.”

Bright future

Boswell said MRE Capital has extensive experience in renovating similar buildings dating to the 1920s.

“We are very fortunate we found the right developer for this project,” Serna said.

Now, Sailler said, MRE Capital is seeking tax credits from the Texas Historical Commission as part of the agency’s non-competitive process.

“The building obviously is a historic building from the 1920s,” Serna said.

For nearly two years, the project has stirred some opposition.

Downtown, many property owners believe a 24-unit apartment development will bring too many families and cars into the small business district.

At City Hall, Serna expects to close on the building’s sale within three months.

Then, it could take about three more months to launch the renovation project, Serna said.

“There’s a design process,” Serna said. “They have to complete plans and specifications.”

This month, the project’s contractor is expected to meet with engineers and architects at the site, Sailler said.

“We’re going to double check what we’ve already done,” Sailler said. “Now is the time to get very, very serious.”