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EEDC begins survey for possible legal office tower in downtown Edinburg

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EDINBURG EEDC

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By DAVID A. DÍAZ

Texas Border Business

As Hidalgo County leaders prepare for the inevitable expansion or construction of a new courthouse in downtown Edinburg, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has begun a regional market survey to determine the demand for a privately-funded Class ‘A’ office tower as part of the city’s ambitious downtown revitalization goals.

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Agustín “Gus” García, Executive Director for the EEDC, which is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council, is hopeful that the proposed construction of a $100+ million Hidalgo County Courthouse would help encourage private developers to finance the creation of an office tower.

“This effort is only the initial step to identifying a need,” said García. “If a need is found, then phase 2 – looking for a developer – would proceed.”

The privately funded professional services complex envisioned through a collaborative effort between the EEDC and the city would primarily cater to attorneys and other legal professionals. But it also could draw high-end shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, whose tenants could capitalize on the thousands of people who come to the courthouse and downtown daily to conduct their business.

“We are getting ready to start one of the largest construction projects for the downtown square, which will be the new county courthouse,” García said. “There has been a big push by the Edinburg City Council and the EEDC to revitalize that area, to improve the infrastructure and drainage, to eliminate the flooding that has taken place over the past many years.

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The Edinburg City Council and the EEDC are partners in the development and transformation of the city’s downtown into a major economic powerhouse for the city. The possible law office tower complex and the proposed new courthouse are part of a larger vision for significantly improving job-creation and quality of-life issues, known as the Downtown Master Plan, finalized in June 2010 under the leadership of the City of Edinburg and EEDC.

“With the proposed construction of a new Hidalgo County Courthouse in the downtown square, the EEDC is looking at all viable options to revitalize this vital area in order to continue generating more sales taxes and more property taxes, as well as more new jobs, from such major construction projects,” the EEDC executive director said. “If one looks at any county seat, where the courthouse is located, there is always a need for Class ‘A’ office space.”

He noted that dozens of law firms are located outside of Edinburg, representing potential and legitimate tenants for private developers who would fund the creation of any high-rise complex tied into the new courthouse.

“We want to begin talking to law firms to see if they are interested in relocating near or next to the courthouse in a tower with a parking space. We will be pursuing developers to see if they are interested in building such a facility,” García explained. “We want to build a list of attorneys who would move into a Class ‘A’ legal tower for their needs. If we can get enough interested parties, we can explore finance incentives for a developer who would want to take on a project of that magnitude.”

Edinburg’s downtown region is anchored by three important public entities – the county courthouse, Edinburg City Hall, and the University of Texas-Pan American, which “generate a significantly positive flow of traffic and visitors,” García observed. “Any business would do well locating in our downtown, and the office tower could represent an ideal way to prosper from the unique characteristics that make up the heart of our city.”

By the fall of 2014, the University of Texas-Pan American will have finished ongoing construction of a $42.6 million performing arts center that will be the latest showpiece on campus, with thousands of visitors expected to drive to Edinburg each year to enjoy concerts and other major cultural and academic activities at the new facility, he reflected.

“UTPA, especially as it becomes the major component of a new University of Texas System, will begin to see even more new construction that will continue to bring more people to our city. A Class ‘A’ office tower would be in a position to capitalize on those prospective customers and clients,” García said. “In a matter of a couple of months, the UT System Board of Regents will be asked to authorize almost $150 million in new construction at UTPA. With new buildings will come many more people who will travel through, and stop at, our downtown.”

García said the survey will continue over the next six to 12 months, but he encouraged all interested business leaders – not just attorneys – to participate in the study.

“Contact the EEDC at (956) 383-7124 or go to our websites (www.EdinburgEDC.com. or www.EdinburgEDC.com) and tell us what you need by viewing and completing our questionnaire,” he said.

As for the possible location of an office tower, García said it would depend on key factors.

“We are exploring sites right now, we have some ideas, but it would depend on the interest, the type of building, will it have an underground parking garage,” he said. “That is one of the reasons it is very important that we hear from prospective tenants of this office tower.”

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