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Old May 10th, 2011, 11:23 AM   #1
diablo234
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Rio Grande Valley Development News

This thread is basically created to discuss new development that is occuring in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas (such as McAllen, Brownsville, Harlingen, South Padre Island, etc).

Last edited by diablo234; May 15th, 2011 at 02:12 AM.
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Old May 10th, 2011, 11:25 AM   #2
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University Drive is to be given a makeover in addition to new development.

Quote:
Business, traffic makeover set for UTPA's 'front door'
May 09, 2011 9:32 AM
Jared Janes
The Monitor
http://www.themonitor.com/articles/u...-edinburg.html

EDINBURG — The aging commercial corridor that lines the front entrance of the University of Texas-Pan American will receive a makeover to improve students’ access to campus and nearby retail options.

Two fast food restaurants along University Drive will construct new buildings as the hotel across from UTPA is demolished to make way for a new shopping center called University Plaza. The new development comes as the city finalizes plans for a new street and a crosswalk directly in front of the university’s main entrance that will make it easier for students to arrive at and leave campus.

UTPA President Robert Nelsen said the remaking of University Drive will create a new “front door” to the campus.

“This is part of a much bigger project to actually create a real university town,” Nelsen said from his office overlooking University Drive, where lines of cars piled into the campus’ main entrance. “Right now, people are attracted to the university, but the stickiness of the city will be important in keeping them here.”

The university’s chief concern is safety and accessibility.

With no crosswalk on University between Fourth Avenue and Sugar Road, students often dart across several lanes of traffic to grab lunch at the Dairy Queen and other fast food options across from the university.

But a new road will give those students a safer means of passage: Beta Drive, which will extend from a revamped UTPA entrance on University to the South Texas ISD campus a block to the south, will bring a traffic signal and a pedestrian crosswalk.

The new street — a collaboration among the university, the school district and the Edinburg Economic Development Corp. — has sparked a flurry of new development across from the university as business owners replace eyesores with new locations.

Taqueria La Mexicana has already filed for demolition and building permits as it prepares to construct a new location on site, said Pedro Salazar, the executive director of the Edinburg EDC. The Dairy Queen will undergo demolition to clear way for the street but will be replaced nearby with the franchise’s flagship “Grill & Chill” location.

The commercial corridor’s redevelopment is anchored by the construction of University Plaza, located where the University Inn is currently being razed. Cantu Construction & Development is planning the shopping plaza, where site plans call for two buildings with more than 45,000-square-feet of retail space.

Half of the units located in one building have already been sold, according to the plans, but a spokeswoman for the developer said contracts are currently being finalized. The site plan also calls for the future construction of an apartment complex catering to university staff and faculty behind the retail locations.

Salazar said the perceptions of UTPA are shaped by its surrounding areas. With the look of almost everything in front of UTPA undergoing a much-needed facelift, he said, the city can rebrand the area as it attracts restaurants and retailers that cater to a campus crowd.

Redeveloping the University Drive corridor is part of the city’s larger vision for transforming a downtown devoid of life at night into the county’s cultural hub. The city’s downtown master plan draws on university assets, such as a future performing arts center that will offer an inviting presence to passers-by once it is built along University Drive.

Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia said the new development will also help retain sales tax dollars from commuter students who spend money in other cities once they get in their cars.

“We have one of the most beautiful campuses in the state of Texas,” Garcia said, “but we’re missing its grand entrance.”

Last edited by diablo234; May 10th, 2011 at 11:44 AM.
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Old May 10th, 2011, 11:42 AM   #3
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Quote:
Pan Am Airways schedules public meeting on cargo plans
May 09, 2011 9:44 PM
THE BROWNSVILLE HERALD
http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/new...ys-public.html

Bob Hedrick, president of Brownsville-based Pan American Airways, has announced a public meeting for Thursday to present his company’s plans for air cargo hubs in Brownsville and St. Louis, Mo., and what it could mean for the local economy.

Hedrick recently signed a "memorandum of understanding" with the director of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in which PAA detailed plans to invest $50 million in St. Louis and $25 million in Brownsville for the development of cargo facilities. The meeting will feature a PowerPoint presentation and Q&A session.

"We’ll stay as long we need to answer all the questions we can," Hedrick said. "People can see what we’re doing, what we’re hoping to bring, and what the impact may be. We’re ready to let people know what we’re doing and I’m ready to field questions on it."

The public meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday
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Old May 11th, 2011, 04:13 AM   #4
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Quote:
Valley's first toll road to open north of Brownsville
by Jonathan Weant
Posted: 03.16.2011 at 7:47 PM
http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=593838

Love them or hate them, toll roads are becoming the new trend across the nation.

Even here in the Rio Grande Valley with a new told road opening up at Paredes Line and FM 511 in Brownsville.

“The idea in using the overpass is to avoid the congestion at the intersection of FM 511 and Paredes line and to avoid the rail road tracks” said Pete Sepulveda with Cameron County's Regional Mobility Authority.

The toll for State Highway 550 will be all electronic.

Cameras just above the overpass will acted as a toll booth, taking pictures of who’s on the road.

Drivers will then get a bill in the mail.

Transportation authorities say this is only phase one of a much larger project.

They are hoping to have more toll roads up and running by summer of 2012.

“When it’s all complete, the idea is to take you from Highway 48 to 77 without having to stop at any traffic lights or major intersection” said Supulveda.

The public will still have the use of the free Frontage road if they don’t want to spend any money.

Right now transportation authorities are doing a trial run, testing the system to make sure there are no glitches.

Starting April 10th, drivers who pass through the toll will be charged fifty cents for passenger cars and $2 dollars for commercial vehicles.
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Old May 14th, 2011, 11:32 PM   #5
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Quote:
UTB buying La Estancia for student housing needs
May 13, 2011 9:48 PM
By JACQUELINE ARMENDARIZ, Brownsville Herald
http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/new...niversity.html

The University of Texas at Brownsville has announced plans to buy its own student housing, prompted in part by the potential need for millions in repairs to current housing owned by Texas Southmost College.

The request to purchase La Estancia Apartments, immediately southeast of campus at 2651 FJRM Ave., was approved this week by the UT System Board of Regents, the university said in a written statement. UTB hopes to close on the real estate in July.

The purchase comes in the midst of a ruptured partnership agreement between UTB and TSC.

"The acquisition of this property will serve to propel the university’s future development by offering high-quality housing for students convenient to campus and by playing a key role in physically connecting UTB campus buildings with other property for future expansion," Juliet V. Garcia said in the statement, which listed her as the president of UTB alone.

Cameron County Appraisal District has the property, including its furnishings, assessed at more than $1 million for the 2011 tax year.

UT System documents list the seller of the property as TC-Met La Estancia, LLC.

The campus’ current student housing — The Village — is owned by TSC. About 300 students are currently housed there. The Village opened in 2003 as student housing, documents from the regents’ meeting this week show.

An April 2010 report from the UT System Office of Facilities Planning and Construction found that for The Village to remain in use, $14 million in repairs and improvements would be needed, the same documents state.

The Village was built in the 1960s, serving originally as a hotel, and it has sustained storm damage over the years, the documents said.

"Given the planned separation of UT-Brownsville from Texas Southmost College, the institution has concluded that it is not prudent to pursue that expenditure," a UT System document stated.

La Estancia Apartments is currently a private property. The complex, on 7.34 acres, includes six apartment buildings and an office building. It was built in 2009 and has 103 units with 429 beds, according to the UT System documents.

The complex offers features not available in current housing, the university said.

La Estancia features full kitchens, washers and dryers, a swimming pool, sand volleyball and basketball courts, a club house with a movie theater, computer lab, and a large multipurpose room.

Meloney Linder, UTB-TSC interim vice president for institutional advancement, said students will have to apply to live there through the school’s housing department, once the property belongs to UTB. Prices are being determined, she said.

"I know for sure that students that currently have a contract will be allowed to finish their contract terms," Linder said.

Students who prefer to live off-campus will be accommodated, she said.

Linder also said the university declined to discuss the purchase price.

UT System documents say the price is "not to exceed fair market value as established by independent appraisals."

University officials declined to comment specifically how the February stabbing of a 21-year-old student at the complex might affect perceptions of the property.

They did, however, say there would be changes.

"The new UT-Brownsville student housing will be operated by UT-Brownsville and will be serving students under a new name this fall, with in-house resident advisers and on-site UTB security," Garcia said.
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Old May 15th, 2011, 02:09 AM   #6
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Some renderings for the Kirana which is a new condominium being built in South Padre Island. This will become the tallest building on the island at 421 feet.

http://www.alicedonahue.com/KiranaSouthPadre.aspx







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Old May 16th, 2011, 12:01 AM   #7
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So this new tollway is the north side bypass road which is visibly under construction in the most recent Google Earth imagery of Brownsville? EDIT: I can see the gantries in place at the location mentioned in the article.

Seems stupid, IMO, they should toll the entire road at a chokepoint where you can't avoid the charge.
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Old May 16th, 2011, 02:47 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zaphod View Post
So this new tollway is the north side bypass road which is visibly under construction in the most recent Google Earth imagery of Brownsville? EDIT: I can see the gantries in place at the location mentioned in the article.

Seems stupid, IMO, they should toll the entire road at a chokepoint where you can't avoid the charge.
Yeah you can see the new toll road on Google Earth. Anyways part of the road is replacing FM 551 so that probably dictated where the toll gantry's are going to be located.
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Old June 13th, 2011, 06:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Denim manufacturer begins hiring process in Edinburg
June 10, 2011 10:31 AM
Jared Janes
http://www.themonitor.com/articles/e...r-process.html

EDINBURG — This city is now Denimburg.

A backdrop proclaiming, “Welcome to Denimburg” greeted prospective job seekers Thursday as Brazilian denim manufacturer Santana Textiles officially began its hiring process.

The manufacturer hosted a job fair at the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce as it looks to fill 20 positions for licensed electricians, mechanics, forklift operators and other entry-level jobs. The positions will join a core management team already in place as the manufacturer waits for European manufacturers to deliver the high-tech equipment used to produce rolls of denim.

“These positions are going to be our first hiring because our machinery is coming in” by mid-July, said Lori Garza, the company’s Edinburg-based human resources manager, after she received a large stack of applications from the fair. “This is a big step and we’re excited to get started.”

Thursday’s job fair kicked off a wave of hiring for Santana Textiles, one of the five largest denim producers in the world.

The company, which announced in 2008 that it was establishing its first U.S.-based plant in Edinburg, expects to hire up to 120 employees by the end of the year to meet requirements for state incentives.

When the factory’s first phase is completed in March, Santana Textiles expects to have more than 300 local employees. The 33-acre facility in Edinburg’s North Industrial Park will eventually house up to 800 employees when all of its four phases are complete.

The completed complex, located in the industrial park off U.S. 281, will house the company’s spinning and weaving operations and warehouses where the denim is stored for fashion designers. The Edinburg facility will be the company’s largest as it produces the company’s highest denim lines.

Santana’s Edinburg facility was plagued by delays to its construction timetable ever since Gov. Rick Perry announced the company’s capital investment in July 2008. Although the facility was originally scheduled to open for business last year, the company didn’t break ground until September as the global economic recession forced it to push back plans.

But the company now plans to build its four phases consecutively with an estimated finish in 2015.

The company’s spinning facility could be operational by August once the equipment is in place, Garza said. The equipment is so large that the building must be constructed around it.

The company’s decision to locate in Edinburg was a coup for Edinburg, creating an estimated $180 million in capital investment and up to 3,200 indirect jobs for the company’s Valley suppliers. The company will also be the city’s third-largest private employer, behind South Texas Health System and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance.

And now the manufacturer’s marketing plan calls for a new city slogan: Denimburg.
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Old June 19th, 2011, 11:08 AM   #10
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Quote:
Grill to anchor one end of University Drive development
Jared Janes
The Monitor
June 17, 2011 8:06 AM

http://www.themonitor.com/articles/g...ne-anchor.html


EDINBURG — Khan’s Grill owner Rick Caballero says he wants to conquer the Valley.

But the McAllen businessman will start by expanding into Edinburg to open his second Hidalgo County location for the custom stir fry restaurant named after Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan.

Khan’s Grill will anchor one end of University Plaza, a new shopping center scheduled for construction across from the University of Texas-Pan American that is part of the city’s effort to provide more dining and entertainment options near the campus. City officials began talking last month about the two-building development as part of a makeover for the aging commercial corridor along University Drive, but the tenants interested in more than 45,000-square-feet of retail space were not released.

Caballero announced this week that he purchased one of the buildings to open a Khan’s Grill in Edinburg to cater to students with affordable meals grilled right in front of them.

“I saw a niche in Edinburg that needed to be filled,” said Caballero, who expects to open the Edinburg restaurant by November. “We felt comfortable with the expansion based on our results in McAllen with young people and the location in front of the university.”

Caballero said he bought an empty lot where Cantu Construction & Development will construct 17,000 square feet of retail space as part of the first phase of the development. Caballero said Khan’s Grill will occupy more than half of the space in the initial building, but he will lease out the additional space.

Plans are still being finalized for a neighboring retail site in the plaza, located where the University Inn, 1400 W. University Drive, is being razed. The site plan also calls for the future construction of an apartment complex catering to university staff and faculty behind the retail locations.

Other nearby businesses are also in the midst of upgrades. Taqueria La Mexicana is constructing a new location on its current site, while the Dairy Queen will undergo demolition to be replaced nearby.

A new road called Beta Drive will extend from a revamped UTPA entrance on University Drive to a South Texas ISD campus a block to the south. Edinburg is spending $600,000 on the road that will bring a traffic signal and pedestrian crosswalk to improve students’ access to and from the university.

Caballero opened his first Khan’s Grill, 137 W. Nolana Ave. in McAllen, in 1999 and then expanded to Harlingen five years ago. He said the Edinburg store is part of a comprehensive expansion across the Valley.

A Brownsville location will open in September on Ruben Torres Boulevard, and he expects to open sites in South McAllen, Weslaco and Mission next year
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Old June 19th, 2011, 11:11 AM   #11
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Quote:
Crank it up: UTPA students solicit ideas for music, entertainment in Edinburg
June 17, 2011 3:16 PM
Jared Janes
The Monitor

http://www.themonitor.com/articles/e...eas-music.html

EDINBURG — Need an idea on how to liven up downtown Edinburg? Ask some of the nearly 20,000 students enrolled at the university that anchors it.

A University of Texas-Pan American marketing class surveyed more than 400 students this spring to answer how the city can convert a town with a university into a university town.

The suggestions, compiled in a semester-long project for the class, included operating an annual country music festival, converting the Citrus Theater — a downtown landmark at 108 N. 12th Ave. — into a bowling alley and opening a coffee shop to cater to the university crowd.

While class members presented differing suggestions on how to create a fully functional entertainment district, a theme recurrent in each of the presentations was that students would frequent the district if available, said Ricardo Torres, a nontraditional student who was enrolled in the class. Torres, a mortgage banker and president of the Edinburg Rotary Club, said the city’s downtown revitalization plan can transition the university from a commuter school to a hybrid residency-commuter campus.

“You have people coming in during the day, but in the evening and weekends, you have nothing happening,” Torres said. “People really aren’t living near the university, but this is a chance to revitalize and build around it.”

Edinburg completed a downtown master plan last year to address its downtown doldrums that leave the city nearly devoid of life on the evenings and weekends once the County Courthouse shuts down and university classes are done for the day.

The plan recommended an entertainment district in a two-block area near South 13th Avenue, where upscale eateries, music venues and bars could be adapted into existing buildings, similar to McAllen’s 17th Street entertainment district. The area would be aimed at attracting the university’s 18,000 college students.

While the firm that completed the plan — Austin-based Broaddus & Associates — surveyed stakeholders in the downtown community, the music marketing class’ project was the first attempt at the university level to determine what students would like to see downtown.

Torres’ group determined that nearly 40 percent of students wanted to see more restaurants downtown, while 17 percent preferred live music bars and 9 percent opted for bar and grills. Another group suggested a cafe and tapas bar would create a relaxing atmosphere where university students, faculty and staff could enjoy a morning coffee and return after work to relax and socialize.

Other suggestions included turning the former Edinburg Daily Review building into a restaurant with outdoor music or renovating a closed auto parts store into a sports bar.

All the group’s ideas are suggestions, independent of funding or prospects. But Pedro Salazar, the executive director of the Edinburg Economic Development Corp., said student-generated ideas can help sell downtown to potential business owners.

“It always gives you a different perspective and opens your eyes,” he said. “As we go out and market downtown, it’s helpful to have some of this raw data that the students are generating.”

In addition to the revenue-generating aspects of what a revitalization could mean for Edinburg, Salazar said, the city initiated the downtown plan to foster a sense of place and help students develop an emotional connection to the university.

Michael Minor, a marketing professor who taught the course, said there is a captive group on campus and within the courthouse’s legal community who represent a virtually untapped market for enterprising businesspeople.

Coffee shops are part of university culture, but other than a small one on campus, there is nothing nearby, Minor said. Developing downtown Edinburg for live music, more restaurants and more entertainment options will benefit student life.

“There was an attitude that because there was nothing for entertainment in Edinburg, there shouldn’t be anything in downtown Edinburg,” Minor said. “Given the size of the university, Edinburg shouldn’t take that as a final decision.

“But somebody is going to need a vision to say, ‘This is how we can do this.’”
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Old July 16th, 2011, 08:21 PM   #12
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Aeromexico to start direct flights to Monterrey from Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport.

Quote:
AeroMexico commences nonstop service to Monterrey
July 15, 2011 8:50 PM
BY STEVE CLARK
The Brownsville Herald
http://www.themonitor.com/news/aerom...ownsville.html

BROWNSVILLE -- Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport welcomed Friday afternoon the first AeroMexico nonstop flight from Monterrey with a crowded ceremony at the airport terminal.

The AeroMexico RJ145 50-passenger jet nosed up to the terminal about 2 p.m.

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez greeted the inaugural flight with a ribbon cutting and champagne toast in a terminal restaurant/lounge packed with various officials and executives, spectators and members of the media.

AeroMexico, Mexico’s oldest and largest commercial carrier, announced three weeks ago its intent to begin Monterrey-to-Brownsville service from mid-July through mid-August as a test of the market during the height of the summer tourist season.

AeroMexico executives last week announced their decision to extend the service through Sept. 18, partly due to enthusiastic early demand — flights are booked through July — but also to test the market after the peak tourist season.

AeroMexico’s plan is to resume service in April. Local officials, however, hope business travel will keep the planes full in September and beyond — ideally translating into year-round service. Brownsville and Monterrey do have significant business ties, said Gil Salinas of the Brownsville Economic Development Council.

“Monterrey is the richest city in Mexico,” he said. “It’s like a New York almost. That’s where you go for business. That’s where we get a lot of leads from. The five companies that we’ve gotten in the last year, two of those are from Monterrey.”

Salinas said the city may have to consider financial incentives, such as the city has offered airlines in the past, in order to keep AeroMexico around all year.

“It’s for us to lose, and that’s why we are moving forward with them and some more serious discussions about what we do during the off season,” Salinas said. “The hard part is what do we do October through March. That’s where we’re going to come in. It’s our job to help them generate that traffic, and we’re pretty confident we’ll help them at least hit their load factor, which in the airline business is about 70 percent. After 70 percent, that’s when you become profitable. We’re pretty confident we can at least hit that target.”

Oscar Mejia, vice president of AeroMexico’s U.S. and Canada divisions, said the current plan could change if the planes are still full.

“If we see the demand is there beyond September, we’re going to keep flying,” he said.

For now, round-trip flights will be offered on the peak travel days of Friday and Sunday, though Mejia said the company is looking forward to adding another day. Subsequent phases may include adding service to other Mexican cities served by the Mexico City-based airline, and bringing in jets with higher seating capacity.

At any rate, AeroMexico is looking forward to a long-term relationship with Brownsville, he said, citing the company’s habit of sticking with a market once it’s established there.

“One of our policies is if we start to fly, we keep going,” Mejia said. “We don’t move from city to city.”

Following Friday’s ceremony, select officials, executives and dignitaries boarded the AeroMexico jet for the half-hour flight back to Monterrey for another ceremony. Mayor Martinez, shortly before climbing aboard, expressed his pleasure at the airline’s arrival in Brownsville.

“I think this is the beginning of a great thing,” he said. “Our two countries are divided by a river, but not by culture and not by families, not by anything else. There’s a lot of love and a lot of friendship that I see coming out of this because we’ll get a chance to visit with each other. And I do like to see the mountains every once in a while. It’s a great thing.”

Last edited by diablo234; July 16th, 2011 at 08:29 PM.
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Old July 16th, 2011, 08:27 PM   #13
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PHOTOS: It takes a research village to raise a brainchild
June 30, 2011 4:49 PM
Martha L. Hernández
The Monitor
http://www.themonitor.com/sections/a...0&db=monitortx

McALLEN — Research can go on for years before a product becomes marketable.

That’s not how it worked with FibeRio Technologies’ nanofibers.

University of Texas-Pan American professors Karen Lozano and Kamal Sarkar researched the technology in 2008.

In September 2009, they found an investor.

“We started official business in August of 2010 and sold the first machine in December of last year,” said Edward Peno, chief operating officer of FibeRio, which is incubating at the University of Texas-Pan American’s Rapid Response Manufacturing Center.

That speedy transfer from concept to consumption is what local leaders envision with the proposed McAllen Research and Education Park for the Rio South Texas region.

“It is about taking our community to the next level,” said Keith Patridge, president of the McAllen Economic Development Corp.

The proposed park, to be situated on 400 acres near the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone south of Ware Road and next to South Texas College, is a public-private project meant to bring minds from industry and higher education together.

“The people that are really going to benefit from this project are … our children and grandchildren,” McAllen City Commissioner John Ingram said. “This project will prepare our economy for the 21st century and beyond.”

Planners envision the park as pedestrian-friendly, with open spaces, research facilities and amenities within walking distance. The goal is to blend the park — bound on the west by the Sharyland residential area and on the north by a future golf park — into the surrounding community.

“The driving force behind the park is a subcommittee made up of affiliates of the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Education Initiative,” according to the NAAMREI website. “Sixty business, education, economic development, industry and government partners form the initiative, which is focused on transforming the region into a world leader for advanced and rapid response manufacturing.”

A preview was presented last week to local stakeholders at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, but the master plan — which is being drawn up by Austin-based Broaddus Planning — won’t be ready until fall.

U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, got the House to approve a $300,000 grant for the master plan, but the park’s proponents do not know how its construction will be financed — or what the final price tag will be.

They do have the land, though.

McAllen’s EDC has taken the lead in obtaining private sector involvement. MEDC secured commitments for public and private land. Eighty acres was donated by the city, 255 by Hunt Properties and 71 by Verde Development.

“When will we start looking at building things?” Patridge said. “That will be later: That will be at the end of the year or the first part of next year.”

Ingram framed the research park as a possible way to keep local talent from seeking jobs outside the Valley.

“Think about all the money spent raising kids from the time (they’re) small to the time they get out of college,” Ingram said. “It’s hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

If “we had a facility like this,” he said, “that could create jobs … (and) instead of losing that investment to Dallas, Houston, Chicago and other parts of the world, we keep them right here and give them a good job.”




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Old July 16th, 2011, 08:32 PM   #14
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New hotels and other development around the McAllen events center delayed due to the economy and drug war fears.

Quote:
Defying Conventions: Economy, drug war spoil McAllen events center's recipe for success
July 08, 2011 4:13 PM
Dave Hendricks
The Monitor
http://www.themonitor.com/articles/m...ns-recipe.html

McALLEN — More than four years after opening, McAllen’s $62 million Convention Center remains surrounded by empty lots and awash in red ink.

Nearby hotels, considered crucial to the center’s success, haven’t materialized. The 174,000-square foot venue, designed to accommodate 1,200 people, also has struggled to attract conventions amid a shaky economy and fears about drug-fueled violence flaring across northern Mexico.

Just 18 major events, conventions and meetings have been scheduled for 2011, according to the McAllen Convention and Visitors Bureau, down from 22 last year. Most attract 300 to 500 people.

Cash from room rentals, food sales and other services covers roughly half the Convention Center’s expenses each year, according to city budget documents. To keep the operation afloat, McAllen pours money from the city’s 7 percent hotel tax into the Convention Center’s coffers.

“Here are the cards that we’ve been dealt,” said Omar Rodriguez, director of the Convention Center. “We’ll have to work with that.”

From the beginning, City Hall knew the Convention Center probably wouldn’t break even as a stand-alone business. Overall, though, the money spent by out-of-town visitors on hotel rooms, meals and shopping would create jobs and generate additional tax revenue.

An average convention attendee spends about $120 each day, said Nancy Millar, vice president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Those conventions create jobs and boost sales and property tax revenue for McAllen.

Once established, a convention center probably would lose $475,000 each year, according to an analysis by Convention Sports & Leisure, a consulting firm hired by McAllen more than 10 years ago to evaluate the idea. The venue, which would need an adjacent “headquarters hotel,” would be considered a mid-range destination.

Consultants researched 17 similar convention centers nationwide.

“Only one generates a small financial operating profit,” according to the report’s executive summary, and annual losses ranged up to $1.5 million.

McAllen’s losses have been much higher, according to the city’s annual budgets and audited financial statements. On average, McAllen has used more than $2 million in hotel tax money each year to keep the Convention Center running.

For example, the 2010-11 city budget estimates the Convention Center will earn $1.8 million from room rentals, food and other services, but cost $3.6 million to operate. To cover the gap, McAllen will transfer $2.1 million in hotel tax revenue to the Convention Center’s budget.

While it’s easy to quantify the Convention Center’s cost, calculating its benefits remains tricky.

McAllen’s revenue from hotel taxes has actually fallen since the Convention Center opened, largely owing to the recession, which also battered consumer spending and pushed sales tax revenues back to 2006 levels. Plans to build new hotels, which would generate property tax revenue, have been sidelined by an uncertain fiscal climate and instability in Mexico.

“There’s no question that having a convention hotel would make a big difference,” Millar said. “We have approached many, many meeting planners who have told us they wont even consider a city unless it has a convention hotel — and there are others we haven’t even approached because we know they are saying the same thing.”

Developers still plan to build a La Quinta Inn & Suites and an Embassy Suites between the Convention Center and Palms Crossing, an adjacent retail development.

“We have actually re-bid construction for the job and are pleased with some of the costs that came down and some of the new construction numbers we received,” said Michael Fallek, a developer working on the 195-room Embassy Suites.

Fallek and other members of Boulevard Development Company have been involved with hotels and restaurants in Laredo and across the Rio Grande Valley.

Banks have been hesitant to lend money for the hotels, worried about low occupancy rates. McAllen already has 39 hotels with nearly 3,400 rooms, according to April data released by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, the latest available.

A partner at Tri Wanis Ventures, the group planning to build a 165-room La Quinta near the Convention Center, said violence across northern Mexico has scared away shoppers who once filled hotel rooms on weekends. He said weekend occupancy at the La Quinta near the intersection of U.S. 281 and West Nolana Loop hovers between 20 percent and 30 percent, down significantly from several years ago.

Both projects, slated for land southeast of the Convention Center, have been plagued by financing delays. Originally, the La Quinta had been scheduled to open in late 2008 and the Embassy Suites would have followed in fall 2009. Other lots surrounding the Convention Center remain empty.
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Old July 16th, 2011, 10:12 PM   #15
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Yay, McAllen's growing up!
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Old July 20th, 2011, 12:43 PM   #16
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No offense but it's just a overly ambitious proposal with no source of funding whatsoever as the article states.

Every city has these "dream" projects that have master plans with sexy renderings.

Don't hold your breath on it though.
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Old July 20th, 2011, 03:04 PM   #17
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No offense but it's just a overly ambitious proposal with no source of funding whatsoever as the article states.

Every city has these "dream" projects that have master plans with sexy renderings.

Don't hold your breath on it though.
I don't know, it seems more like a template for future growth than some pie-in-the-sky mega-development. But I agree that the drawings always look sexier than the finished product!
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Old July 20th, 2011, 03:32 PM   #18
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I love it.... and I've never even been to that part of Texas.
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Old July 23rd, 2011, 11:44 AM   #19
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I don't know, it seems more like a template for future growth than some pie-in-the-sky mega-development. But I agree that the drawings always look sexier than the finished product!
Read the article that accompanies the renderings.

The only thing to receive money was the master plan renderings.

There's nothing even remotely concrete behind these renderings aside from ambitious ideas by a few who have no money to build it.

Trust me, this isn't unusual in the real estate business for someone to post out a master plan rendering to sell an idea or concept.

The RGV is the poorest region in the country who's sole economic generator is mexican nationals crossing the broader to buy things. I'm not trying to insult the Valley, just posting the truth.
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Old July 24th, 2011, 06:43 AM   #20
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The RGV is the poorest region in the country who's sole economic generator is mexican nationals crossing the broader to buy things. I'm not trying to insult the Valley, just posting the truth.
There is alot of poverty in the region, but increasing trade with Mexico thanks to NAFTA has brought in alot of jobs related to distribution and manufacturing in the area. Also as you mentioned earlier places such as McAllen have become very attractive to wealthy Mexicans looking to shop, buy a second home in the US, or escaping from the escalating violence area. All of these factors have started to change the face of the RGV with more development which is why I created this thread in the first place. Granted some of these developments may or may not occur (just like anywhere else) but they are still newsworthy and therefore should be posted here regardless, since they document the change from a small sized town with an economic activity based around agriculture to a more well rounded sizable city.
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