Emerging fast: City’s biggest upscale hotel rises toward fifth floor

HARLINGEN — The Harlingen Convention Center’s $25 million anchor is finally starting to show off its grandeur.

Rising four floors over the construction site, the Hilton Garden Inn is now waiting for crews to crown its fifth story.

Calling for 149 rooms, the city’s biggest upscale hotel is expected to be completed by July, nearly two years behind schedule.

After breaking ground in May, now the sprawling hotel is rising fast, City Manager Dan Serna said yesterday.

“It’s going really quick,” he said.

Behind its walls, crews are working on the hotel’s interior, Serna said.

“It’s looking really nice,” he said.

On the ground floor, crews have launched construction of the corridor that will connect the hotel with the convention center.

“The project is coming along extremely well,” said Jeff Hamel, general manager of the convention center and hotel. “It’s going to be a gorgeous facility.”

As part of an agreement, BC Lynd agreed to build its hotel to be attached to the city’s $16.7 million convention center, which opened in May at Teege and Harlingen Heights roads.

In South Texas, the construction project will be the first to connect a convention center and hotel.

“We’ll be the only convention center with a hotel attached to it south of San Antonio,” Hamel said.

Area’s biggest hotel

Late last year, Brandon Raney, BC Lynd’s chief executive officer, said he worked 18 months to land the “right” financing to launch the project.

“Our number-one priority is to be the premier convention center and hotel in the region executing a seamless and unique experience for all guests and clients,” BC Lynd stated in a press release.

“The Hilton Garden Inn will serve as the largest hotel within a 25-mile radius of Harlingen and will have the latest in technology, a full-service restaurant and bar with in-room dining experience and oversized fitness center along with a beautiful outdoor experience with a South Texas feel nestled into the convention center.”

Under an agreement, BC Lynd is operating and staffing the convention center while splitting any profits or deficits with the city.

Convention center draw

Soon, the hotel is expected to boost the convention center’s bookings.

“It would work hand-in-hand with the convention center,” Heriberto Aguilar, a member of the city’s convention center advisory committee, said. “Given the amount of rooms, it facilitates meeting planners trying to book events. They don’t have to look too far. If they have big events, it’s easy to book the hotel.”

Earlier this year, a consulting firm presented city officials with findings showing the hotel would help boost revenue after what it described as the convention center’s “transition year.”

“The mix of business that can be generated by an independent facility is limited when compared to a facility that can offer the benefits of an attached hotel,” Thomas Hazinski, managing director with HVS Convention, Sports and Entertainment Facilities Consulting, wrote in February.

“The operator will initially focus on generating events that do not require an adjacent hotel,” Hazinski wrote. “Once the (hotel) opens …, the hotel will be able to generate events that require an adjacent hotel.”

According to Hazinski, HVS conducted an earlier study showing the attached hotel would help boost the convention center’s revenues.

“In a previous study, HVS projected the demand for and financial operations of the (convention center) under the assumption that the (hotel) and (convention center) would open at the same time,” Hazinski wrote.

First full-year projections

At City Hall, officials are counting on the hotel to boost the convention center’s revenues.

In September, BC Lynd projected the convention center to run a $202,389 deficit during the 2019-2020 fiscal year — not bad for its first year of operation, officials said.

From October through September 2020, the Rio Grande Valley’s newest convention center is expected to generate $735,602 in revenue.

Meanwhile, expenditures are projected at $937,991.

As part of an agreement, city officials have set aside $500,000 to cover any deficits during the convention center’s first two years, or “ramp-up” period.