City to pick architect for super park

HARLINGEN — The plan to develop a multimillion-dollar super park appears closer to reality.

City commissioners tomorrow are expected to authorize City Manager Dan Serna to negotiate an architectural contract for the $8.5 million first phase of a project to turn Lon C. Hill Park into a so-called destination park.

Officials plan to earmark money from the Harlingen Community Improvement Board’s sales tax to fund the first phase of the project aimed at drawing tourism to town.

Commissioners are expected to consider staff recommendations in their selection of one of 12 archetectural firms submitting proposals for the job.

Parks Director Javier Mendez, Assistant City Manager Carlos Sanchez and engineer Martha Viada have ranked the firms based on criteria including experience.

As a result, the committee has recommended GMS Architects, a Brownsville-based firm, Mendez said yesterday.

“They’ve done a good job on parks projecs similar to what we’re doing so qualifications ranked high and experience ranked high,” Mendez said. “They’re familiar with rules and regulations.”

The project’s $8.5 million first phase would lay the foundation for the super park, whose five phases would include features such as an amphitheater, athletic courts, an adaptive field aimed at special needs children, a discovery center and a dog park.

The project’s fifth phase is expected to build a $1.2 million retractable roof over Harlingen Field.

The plan to develop a destination park ranks among the top priorities in the city’s new 10-year comprehensive plan.

For months, officials have debated the project’s funding.

Since last year, officials have downscaled the project, originally carrying a price tag of $12.9 million.

In May, Commissioner Michael Mezmar spoke out against borrowing money to build the super park.

Then two months later, commissioners scrapped plans to borrow money to fund the project.

In July, Commissioner Tudor Uhlhorn said he did not want to squeeze the Community Improvement Board’s budget, fueled by sales tax revenue earmarked to fund so-called quality of life projects including the $16.7 million convention center.

Now, the city plans to use cash and grants to build the park in five phases, stretching out the project for as long as eight years.

Phase 1 features include

– Entry court $279,025

– Center plaza $554,545

– Walkways $587,957

– Parking lots $494,860

 Total $8.5 million