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HARLINGEN — Record construction levels are driving a business boom along with soaring apartment developments as housing starts are standing strong amid the city’s bursting growth.

From October to July, city officials recorded $141.3 million worth of construction, including $91 million in commercial construction and $50.2 million worth of housing starts, reports show.

During the same period, the city’s reporting 209 housing starts, 150 apartment developments and 28 commercial projects, records show.

The 10-month period easily overtook last year’s 12-month span, when the city’s total construction values stood at $119.1 million, with 250 housing starts valued at $43 million, 22 commercial projects worth $26.7 million and nine apartment developments adding $3.1 million, records show.

“The message is out — Harlingen is open for business and our team is here to ensure the development process is efficient and seamless,” Mayor Norma Sepulveda stated. “We are experiencing explosive growth despite the high interest rates and inflation and I anticipate even stronger numbers as inflation comes back down. The future of Harlingen is bright!”

‘Unprecedented levels’

At City Hall, City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez is projecting construction values to climb about $10 million by the end of the month.

“These are unprecedented levels,” he said. “Commercial is leading the charge with $91 million in construction.”

Near the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley’s Institute of Neuroscience, three subdivisions are opening, Gonzalez said.

“You can see the amount of construction of homes in the city,” he said. “Residential permits are up $50 million, and that’s multi-family and single-family — and that’s just 10 months. We think August will be about $10 million more — and that’s just residential. I think it’s going to be awesome. This year’s going to be great.”

A barista at Scooter’s Coffee hands over a beverage to a drive-thru customer Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023, in Harlingen. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

Big business

Across town, incoming businesses include four car dealerships, Academy Sports and Outdoors and Fairfield Inn and Suites, while Stefano’s Brooklyn Pizza is rebuilding with a Black Bear Diner restaurant and shops such as Dutch Bros and Scooter’s Coffee opening.

Higher prices, interest rates can’t stop new subdivisions

Higher interest rates and steeper prices haven’t stopped construction from booming.

Now, developer Armando Elizarde is working on three subdivisions, his latest a 115-lot development.

“It’s still brisk, even though interest rates are up and prices are up and materials are up,” he said. “People are still buying.”

Many buyers are in the market following the coronavirus pandemic, Elizarde said.

“During the pandemic, it slowed down, so it created a shortage, so maybe there’s some catch-up but it’s still brisk,” he said. “There are a lot of multi-family, town homes.”

Big commercial development

New residents are driving many of the housing starts, Sue Ann Taubert, an associate real estate broker, said.

“I think it’s mostly people moving in,” she said, adding new residents are taking jobs with for Space X, UTRGV and government agencies.

Residential construction continues to grow in Harlingen as many properties are seen for sale Thursday afternoon, Aug. 24, 2023. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

“There are homes being built in Treasure Hills — all over Harlingen,” Taubert said.

In and around town, commercial developments are springing up, she said.

“There’s a bunch of big commercial,” she said. “A lot of it is commercial being built along 509 and 106.”

New residents help drive home sales

The area’s low cost of living is drawing many new residents away from states like California and Florida, Dee Nieto, a real estate agent with Keller Williams, said.

“We’re seeing a significant increase,” she said. “We have a lot of people who are coming here. Interest rates have increased significantly but it hasn’t slowed down at all. I’ve dealt with people from California, Utah, upper Texas, Houston, Florida. They’re coming. A lot of it is the cost of living, is what I’m getting from them. The cost of living where they’re at is much higher — California, Florida.”