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Harlingen commissioners approve final draft of agreements for new convention center

The project is expected to be completed 12 months after construction. Construction begins February 2017.

Harlingen commissioners approved the final draft of development, property purchase, and lease/operation agreements for a new convention center during a meeting on Monday.

City leaders tell CBS 4 News that this convention center is different than other ones because a hotel will be constructed next to it at the same time.

“We have a lot of businesses in our community that do training for their employees. They have to go to another city because we don’t have a facility that is large enough or appropriate enough to do that,” said Mayor Chris Boswell.

The $14.8 million convention center will be built next to an upscale 150-room hotel that will connect to each other. The entire property will located at the corner of Brazil and Horizon Street.

According to lease/operation agreement, the developer will lease, maintain and operate the city owned convention center and will pay the city of Harlingen base rent payments of $60,000 each year.

“When you have a private operator and a business entity that is in it to make to make a profit, we may stand a better chance than some of these other facilities that are stand alone facilities,” Boswell said.

The city and the developer will split all net profits and deficits directly in half during the term of the lease/operation agreement.

“It has nothing to do with our property tax and none of our general fund revenues. The monies that we use for police, fire, streets, and garbage -- none of that money will be used for this project,” said Boswell.

Approximately $9.7 million generated through the Community Improvement Board’s sales tax, $3.8 million will come from hotel-motel occupancy tax revenue and will also use $1.7 million from three tax increment financing reinvestment zones to help fund the project, according to the city.

“We are going to use the current fund balance in those zones, monies that are sitting in those accounts and purchase it towards the purchase of the land,” said City Manager Dan Serna.

Serna tells CBS 4 News, they have used the Community Improvement Board money already to fund other projects including the 25th Street Hike & Bike Trail and bathrooms at McKelvey and Arroyo Park.

“There will be additional funds 4B (the Community Improvement Board) to do other projects. We are not even taping to their fund balance. They have a fund balance of over $5 million. We are looking to do other projects with those monies,” Serna said.

The project is currently moving into the design phase. The city will begin meeting with architects, engineers and the developer to design the convention center and then move on to construction.

The project is expected to be completed 12 months after construction. Construction begins February 2017.

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