Downtown board rejects name due to ‘perception issues’

Downtown Jackson Street in Harlingen.

HARLINGEN — The Downtown Improvement District board on Tuesday balked at naming a building in the district it oversees because the words “transitional living center” could be misconstrued by visitors.

Sunny Glen Children’s Home operates a second-hand clothing shop called Vintage at 101 E. Jackson St. The nonprofit was seeking to erect a sign on the building which houses the shop and residential living space above it and call it “The Monte and Amy Allen Transitional Living Center.”

All signage in the downtown district must be approved by the downtown board to meet standards set down by city ordinance.

The name for the building proposed by Sunny Glen to honor its benefactors was to be placed near the top of the two-story building.

“We had some concerns over the actual wording on the top, at least from my perspective, the ‘transitional living’ implies halfway house for something that is definitely not,” said Lars Keim, board chairman. “Can we revisit that title?”

Board member Bill DeBrooke, a longtime property owner in the downtown district, suggested another way to recognize the Allens.

“Normally, what happens in a situation like this, is there’s a bronze plaque you put on the building, people get their recognition, and everybody goes home happy,” he said.

“Transitional living implies either parolees, pedophiles, … in this town. That’s what you see,” DeBrooke continued. “The tower (Baxter Building), they’re still calling it Section 8 housing and it has nothing to do with Section 8 housing. In Harlingen, people don’t deal with life, I think.”

“I agree, Bill,” said board member Steve Aune. “I agree wholeheartedly.”

Conceding there may be a potential perception issue for some people, Keim turned to Chase Palmer, director of Sunny Glen, for clarification on the store and the upstairs residential space where workers will live.

“The upstairs of this building is part of a supervised, independent living program for foster youths who are aging out,” Palmer said. “It has nothing to do with a halfway house; it has nothing to do with a rehab facility or parolees.”

“These are kids that turn 18 in foster care and typically age out of the system, so we are going to be providing supervised independent living services in that residential space,” he added. “Part of this is to help erase the stigma that’s around these kids as they transition from being a kid who’s been in foster care for maybe five to 10 years of their lives to becoming independent, contributing members of our society.”

The board rejected the plaque and approved changing the signage at the top of the building to read the “The Monte and Amy Allen House.”

rkelley@valleystar.com