City’s industrial park to receive makeover

HARLINGEN — These days, they don’t look like your usual industrial parks.

The Harlingen Economic Development Corp. board on Tuesday approved $8,000 for preliminary landscaping work to enhance curb appeal at Harlingen Industrial Park.

This landscaping contract, to be awarded to SSP Design of Brownsville, is part of a larger plan for the 140-acre park as the HEDC continues to pursue the creation of a Public Improvement District, or PID, for property in the Harlingen Industrial Park.

These special districts allow the owners of the property to self-assess or self-levy, creating a taxing zone where they would contribute to a fund which could then be used for landscaping, road improvements or improved lighting.

“This is part of that process,” Raudel Garza, executive director of the HEDC, said following the meeting. “When you have a PID, part of the process is identifying potential costs. So you have to have schematic drawings and schematic plans on what you want so that you can put a price to it.”

The HEDC owns about half of those 140 acres at the industrial park on the city’s east side.

The landscaping investment approved by the board, while small, is symbolic of a larger issue for cities like Harlingen when it comes to attracting major new businesses.

“They’re looking for curb appeal,” Garza said.

Garza said the contemporary philosophy of Fortune 100 companies, the kind of big firms the city is trying to attract, is a growing appreciation of the aesthetics which appeal to the modern workforce.

“So if the quality of the place reflects the character of the workforce, they say ‘Hey, we like it here, it looks nice. Hey, this is great weather. Hey, there’s always something to do here,’” he said. “That’s going to attract the workforce these guys are looking for.

“Maybe during their lunch break they can go outside and can walk on the sidewalks or on a little trail that’s close to the facility. Maybe, maybe not,” he added. “But that’s what they’re asking for and that’s what we’re seeing a lot of from these larger companies that go into parks considered ‘Class A’ industrial parks where there are more amenities, where there is more landscaping, where there’s uniform signage and that push for a preservation of their investment in terms of value.”

Garza said the initial landscaping will focus on businesses already operating in the park, spread out along FM 509, Grimes Avenue and Bob Youker Street.

“It doesn’t make sense to spend money on landscaping where you might have a driveway later and have to dig it up and change it around,” Garza said. “So we’re going to work on what’s already there, what’s already established, and enhance that first.”