Changing downtown Brownsville comes with a price

Downtown Brownsville

Brownsville City commissioners have put the brakes on at least for now, a city ordinance that would increase meter fees by 50 cents in the downtown shopping area.

The main reason this ordinance was not approved is because downtown business owners think it will kill sales. But city commissioners say the 25 cent fees are well below the national $1.25 average and it's time for change

Parra's furniture store on 7th and Washington in Brownsville has been in the downtown area since the early 1970's.

Owner Jaime Parra says in the past few years, business has been almost at a standstill. Now a proposed city ordinance calling for a parking meter increase from 25 to 75 cents has Parra worried that it could drive business even further away from historic downtown.

"You invite the customers to come back not scare them off by increasing this, as it the sales are already going north to the sunrise mall and that area over there," Parra said.

The downtown area falls under district one, overseen by City Commissioner John Villarreal.

He says there hasn't been a meter fee increase in over 35 years.

Already, the city collects over $300,000 from 1,000 meters yearly.

And while it's not necessarily expected to triple, the revenue increase will be significant, and will go right back to revitalization efforts in the area.

"We understand that's the heart of the city. It's our front door step to Mexico, and so many cities have invested in their downtown and it helps with their revenues," Villarreal said.

Downtown merchants have apparently been promised improvements to the downtown area for years, but he has yet to see any real changes...He says there are other ways to accommodate shoppers without driving them away. "I would like to see a parking garage that would help considerably. If you would've considered this maybe six, seven years ago, when the economy was a lot better, I don't think anybody would be talking about it right now," Parra said

Commissioner Villarreal said while he understands it's going to take time for people to make the adjustment , this change can be a positive move for the city.

"They say well this is Brownsville, it's not going to work and maybe that's why it doesn't work because we are already going into it thinking it's not going to work," Villarreal said.

City commissioners agreed to host a town hall meeting to reevaluate the proposal, but a date has not been set.