Mitte moves forward: Parking lot construction to begin soon

Plans for a makeover of the segment Mitte Cultural District northeast of Ringgold Avenue between East 6th and East 7th streets are coming into sharper focus, with more details of the three-phase project having been released.

Parts of phase one, including hike-and-bike trail improvements, were completed late last year. Work on the next phase of phase one, parking lots, is slated to begin soon, according to Mitte Foundation Executive Director Coleith Molstad.

“The parking lots are going to start here pretty quick,” she said. “That’s the first thing that will happen, and then we’ll move across the street and start working on the Ringgold-East 7th corner.”

The Mitte Foundation announced its plans for the MCD in November but not what it planned to do with that corner, where sits a decrepit former gas station catty-corner to the future wildflower meadow. Molstad said the foundation got permission from the city to raze the old filling station after more than one architect pronounced the structure’s back wall crumbling and beyond help.

A new building that fits the look of the original structure’s era will be erected in its place, she said, noting that the old building is significant as the first Hispanic-owned gas station in Brownsville. Mitte Foundation board member Dyna Mitte said the foundation has offered to put up a plaque recognizing the historical significance if the city chooses. At any rate, the corner is now planned as a food truck park with enough space for four units, she said.

“The inside of the gas station will be a big open area with seating, so that people that buy the food from the food trucks can have a place to sit in the a/c rather than outside in the hot weather,” Mitte said.

Molstad said work on the filling station drawings is under way. Phase two of the project will involve the opposite corner, where Jackson Feed & Seed once stood, and will include pavilions, a wildflower meadow and water feature designed to look like a waterfall, as well as walkways, trees and landscaping, a “sombrero sculpture” and other amenities. Phase three includes a stage and performance area, an expansive lawn with seating, more trails and sidewalks, a learning garden and “lush landscaping,” according to the foundation.

An old cinder block building tucked behind a massive concrete cargo dock close to East 7th Street has already been turned into the MCD office. The Mitte Foundation is spending $2 million on the overall makeover. Mitte said progress on the project so far is already generating positive feedback among nearby residents who walk the hike-and-bike trail in the evenings.

The foundation has coordinated in some respects with the city’s The Cannery Public Market project, which will entail refurbishing the derelict Quonset hut warehouse behind the city’s CVB scale house and transforming it into the new home of the Brownsville Farmers’ Market, complete with commercial kitchen. That work is supposed to begin this summer.

“We really haven’t coordinated timing with them too much,” Molstad said. “They’re on their own time schedule with The Cannery, but we’ve coordinated the interaction between the space. We’re working closely with the city on the landscaping.”

She said the objective is for the two projects to flow together seamlessly. Board member Mitte noted that the foundation is also working with the city on outdoor restrooms, and said the overall makeover is “pretty much on schedule.”

“We’re all really happy about it,” she said. “We’re really excited to get everything in.”