Downtown Harlingen board debates idea for new entertainment venue

HARLINGEN — The downtown board on Tuesday debated — sometimes sharply — a new concept for the development of Lozano Plaza as an entertainment venue with restrooms.

The empty, grass-filled lot at the corner of Jackson Street and A Street is a prime property, made vacant by the unfortunate fire years ago which destroyed the Lozano Building, and the city subsequently acquired the property.

The concept the Downtown Development Board discussed would place new restrooms along Jackson Street, and a Harlingen sign to the west of them, right at the corner of the intersection. A performing stage also would be added nearby at the Jackson Street end.

The project is purely at the concept stage, said Alexis Alaniz, the downtown director, and no funding has been discussed.

Several board members voiced concerns about the placement of the restrooms on Jackson Street and suggested a possible move to the south, where they would abut the alleyway. The stage, too, should be moved to that end of the lot to allow people to view entertainment from the grassy area, they said.

Some board members were dubious about the whole idea.

“After the Lozano Building burned down, our intention was to hold it for development,” said board member Bill DeBrooke. “This is the most important intersection in the downtown.”

“Putting a restroom here just makes no sense at all, particularly blocking it in the middle of the site where you can’t do anything else around it, it’s just a bad idea,” he added. “We’re going to attract all the downtown street people to the bathrooms right here on Jackson Street. I mean, that’s insane.”

DeBrooke also questioned the necessity of a Harlingen sign.

“We have a ‘Welcome to Harlingen’ sign at the airport. We have a ‘Welcome to Harlingen’ sign coming in from the north, and this does not belong here, it does not even belong in the downtown,” DeBrooke said.

“I’m opposed to this whole project, and I wish people would come to the board and include us early in the process before they come up with ‘Hey, look at this for you.’ It just makes no sense,” he added.

Board member John Pearcy indicated he was supportive of the general concept of turning Lozano Plaza into an entertainment venue, and he suggested putting the stage near the alleyway on the lot’s south end, away from Jackson Street.

“You can’t have an event on the stage facing the lawn and the street. … Having the stage at the alley side allows that,” Pearcy said.

The Harlingen sign would be funded by the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Cassandra Consiglio, the CVB’s director.

“I wanted to pick an area where it was safe for people to get out of their vehicle and take a picture, and especially during Market Days and Art Night, people are already walking down that street,” she said. “It’s an attraction.

“I think it’s a great location, it’s a green space between a lot of businesses, and again it’s safe for you to pull over and park,” she added. “That’s the main thing.”

The board tabled the discussion on the Lozano Plaza concept for further discussion.

“It’s just in the concept stage, we haven’t really hired anybody to design it yet,” Alaniz, the downtown director, said after the meeting. “But this is a concept for what Lozano Plaza can eventually look like.”

“We do want to keep our greenspace, though, for events, because it’s a popular attraction for Movie Nights in the Park, Market Days and Art Night.”

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