Thursday, October 8, 2009

Border fence scuttles multimillion-dollar Brownsville development

Brownsville Herald
October 8, 2009
by Emma Perez-Trevino

BROWNSVILLE — An extensive multimillion-dollar residential and commercial development along the Rio Grande in the Amigoland area could be suspended and might never come to fruition.

The fence between the U.S.-Mexico border is to blame.

Developers and city staff present the City Commission with separate resolutions Tuesday calling for it to suspend the activities of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone No. 2 as they relate to the 421-acre University Park project. The parties did not entirely agree on the language of the resolutions and plan to resolve the differences in the coming days.

The TIRZ is a financing mechanism that allows investors to improve areas and be reimbursed with tax revenue. The investors in University Park include Rollins M. Koppel, of Harlingen, Abraham Galonsky, of Brownsville, Alter Holand, of McAllen, and Jenard Gross, of Houston.
The master development agreement between investors and the municipality calls for the city’s purchase of nearly 80 acres of land from the developers for the construction of a park.

The border security fence, however, prevents the use of the land that the city planned to purchase for the park.

Furthermore, the Brownsville Public Utilities Board rescinded its agreement with the developers to fund utility costs, which were proposed for construction on the property, and to take over the maintenance and operations of the utilities, the commission further learned Tuesday.

The developers’ resolution presented to the commission notes that the developers determined that the construction of the fence greatly increased the economic risks of any successful development on the property — to the extent that the development that was planned is no longer economically feasible.

Planning on the project began at least five years ago.

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