San Benito launches $ 115 million project; Hotel, convention center presented as game changer



October 20 – SAN BENITO – After about three years of planning, developer launches $ 115 million project to build hotel and convention center that could create more than 1,000 jobs while generating millions of dollars in taxes .

Western Spherical Developers, a Friendswood company, plans to launch the first phase of the project on 38 acres at Interstate 69 and FM 509 at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“We need it for San Benito,” Mayor Rick Guerra said Tuesday. “It’s a big project. It gives us a chance in San Benito. There is no other such big investment trying to come here. He is a private investor, it all depends on him. We owe him. give it a chance. I hope all this will happen by. “

Like Guerra, city commissioner Carol Lynn Sanchez pointed out that developer David Mills is investing in the project featured as a game changer here.

“It is a project that has been prepared for years,” she said. “I’m so excited about the potential this brings to our great community. I know we’ll make it thrive. It’s a great company. However, unlike the big projects I have voted against in the past, the burden is The financial responsibility lies with the developer, not our taxpayers. I can’t wait for all of our generations to benefit. “

Commissioner René Garcia said RGV Epicenter could become the city’s biggest project for years.

“We aspired to have a project of this magnitude – so here it is,” he said. “This is an opportunity that we seemed unable to seize. I have a feeling it will be a welcome sight in San Benito, mainly due to economic development. We’re welcoming developers to San Benito with this multi-phase, mixed-use development to include a hotel, convention center, and retail stores. Let’s turn this land into property subject to sales tax. “

Putting a strain on the city’s resources

However, Commissioner Pete Galvan argued that the project would strain city officials facing other challenges.

“Although economic development is beneficial in generating more tax revenue and improving the quality of life of our citizens, now is not the time for the (city of San Benito) to consider a project of this caliber,” said he declared.

“According to the city manager, Manuel De La Rosa, the city will not have any responsibility. I do not agree – citizens pay the salaries of the city manager, public works, code enforcement and the prosecutor of city ​​to review development progress. City staff and resources will be irresponsibly diverted to a project that I’m not entirely sure we can handle. I would much prefer the city’s resources to be diverted to the development of new subdivisions, downtown, historic Robertson Street, streets, infrastructure, etc.

First phase

The first phase of the project focuses on building a hotel and convention center to include a restaurant, retail space, wellness center, entertainment and a ‘similar water feature’. at a lagoon ”on a 38-acre site, said Linda Merritt, the project representative. .

“We are very excited,” she said. “It will be attached to other elements. Part of the design is to have a good flow and a good connection to make it friendly for walking. We want to create something very nice, very appealing in terms of aesthetics. . “

Meanwhile, negotiations continue with hotels interested in the project, Merritt said.

“There are final talks going on,” she said. “There have been several flags interested.”

By Saturday, the developer plans to complete the purchase of 38 acres at the northeast corner of FM 509 and I-69, she said.

As part of the first of three phases, the developer would build a 23,000-square-foot convention center, 142-room hotel and five-acre lagoon over a three-year construction period, officials said. .

Three-phase project

In April, the commissioners agreed to offer tax breaks to the developer.

What would become the city’s largest project in decades would create 1,013 jobs as well as an additional 1,077 jobs over the three-year construction period, the developer said.

In February, Miles told commissioners that the RGV Epicenter project would generate $ 100 million in retail sales, hotel revenue and property taxes for the city over a 20-year period.

As part of the overall project, Miles is proposing the development of a sprawling “village” comprising two hotels, an entertainment center, sports complex, restaurants and retail stores as well as a five-acre “Crystal Lagoon”.

Miles said he plans to develop the project in three phases.

Over a three-year construction period, the $ 180 million first phase would develop the convention center and a five-story, 142-room select-service hotel along with features including an entertainment center, conference room show, restaurants, retail spaces and office suites and the five-acre lagoon.

Potential tenants include Waypoint 2 Space, a Houston-based training company for commercial spaceflight, Miles said.

The second and third phases of the project, each funded by investments of $ 120 million, would include a sports arena and a “medical village,” he said.

Financing of hotel occupancy tax

About three years ago, Tammy Huerta, daughter of the late Grammy Award-winning singer Freddy Fender, helped spark discussions with De La Rosa, Miles said.

Two House bills would help the developer finance costs through hotel occupancy tax revenue.

In 2019, State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. and State Representative Eddie Lucio III helped advance Bills 4347 and 2199, which allow cities to spend hotel occupancy tax revenues generated by developments to finance the construction of convention centers and sports and entertainment projects.

“The vision behind the bills we’ve worked hard for is finally coming to fruition,” Sanchez said on Tuesday.

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