HARLINGEN — For five months, Ron Demartines has been waiting to move into the city’s first high-rise apartment building.
In March, he applied to rent an apartment at Baxter Lofts, where his application was approved last month.
Then June 24’s big storm flooded the building’s basement, pushing back his June 28 move-in date.
Now, with move-in delayed until mid-August, he might be about to move into his one-bedroom apartment.
“I can’t wait,” said Demartines, a disabled New York native who used to make his living as a construction worker, security guard and retail clerk.
In July 2018, MRE Capital, a Kansas City, Kansas, developer, launched the $4.5 million renovation project aimed at turning the city’s tallest eyesore into an apartment development offering so-called “affordable housing.”
For months, Baxter Lofts has piqued high interest across the area.
On Facebook, the high-rise’s page has drawn more than 10,000 views, Suzanne Davis, who’s running Baxter Lofts’ leasing office, said.
“Where are you going to find an apartment like this?” she asked as she guided a tour of the building.
During the construction project, MRE Capital aimed to restore the 1927 office building to its original condition while turning it into a modern high-rise.
“That building was pretty well gutted,” Demartines said. “Everything’s brand new.”
Inside, the developers have painstakingly transformed the building’s old offices into 24 one- and two-bedroom apartments featuring open floor plans and modern kitchens.
From its top floors, the building offers stunning panoramic views of the city.
“Who’s going to get a view like this?” Davis asked as she pulled open white window blinds on the ninth floor. “We have views from all sides. It just touches me.”
But for some applicants, the project’s delays have shattered their dreams of living in the newly renovated high-rise.
Like Demartines, Charlie Galvan also applied to rent a one-bedroom apartment.
The retired school district employee was ready to pay $625 a month in rent — “the market rate.”
By May, she was preparing to move out of her old apartment and into the historic landmark.
“I gave my 30-day notice, transferred my electricity, water — everything,” Galvan said.
But the building’s flooding marked her last delay — at her apartment complex, her landlord couldn’t wait on her any longer.
“I had no choice,” Galvan said. “It was either be homeless until Baxter opened or re-sign my lease. We’d been given move-in dates and it didn’t happen. I had to cancel my application.”
Now, Demartines and the rest of Baxter Lofts’ first tenants might be days away from moving into the iconic building that marks one of the city’s most historic restorations.
“If it wasn’t for the water they would have been in already,” Davis said.
Through the building’s basement door, the storm’s floodwaters rushed in.
“There’s still a lot of cleaning to do,” Davis said.
On June 24, the storm dumped more than 12 inches of rain in about four hours, spawning floodwaters that ran more than a foot high along downtown streets.
At Baxter Lofts, floodwaters rushed through a double-locked steel door.
“It was pushed in from the top to the bottom,” Edward Meza, the city’s downtown manager, said of the door. “We don’t know if it was the pressure of the flooding or if it was pushed in.”
However, apparently an incident report wasn’t filed with the Harlingen Police Department, Sgt. Larry Moore said.
For Demartines, the apartment is worth the wait.
“It’s perfect for me,” he said of his new home.
At 54, Demartines, who lives on a monthly disability check of about $900, will pay $204 in rent.
“It’s a hell of a deal,” he said. “The price and what they offer for that price — the amenities.”
Baxter Lofts has strictly overseen its application process, Davis said.
“They do a complete background check on everything,” Demartines said.
Because the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs awarded MRE Capital $3.3 million in federal tax credits to help fund the project’s construction, the developer must rent the units as affordable housing following federal guidelines.
Depending on income and other factors, Baxter Lofts leases its one-bedroom apartments from about $239 to $600 while its two-bedroom apartments rent from $275 to $800.
Baxter Lofts, described as a “luxury” development, offers residents a unique opportunity to live in the city’s first high-rise featuring an outdoor picnic area, a community room, a small library including two computers and a fitness center.
“This is nice,” Demartines said. “There’s an aspect of community. I’ll hopefully make friends.”