|SAN JUAN, May 14 - San Juan has become the first city in the Rio Grande Valley to publicly announce it is making a bid to land the prestigious UTRGV administration headquarters.
Other cities thought to be finalizing a bid include Brownsville, San Benito, Harlingen, Mercedes, La Feria, Weslaco, Pharr, Edinburg and McAllen. Some of these cities, such as Mercedes and La Feria, are making joint bids.
The deadline to respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP) from the UT System is 5 p.m. on Thursday.
“I can confirm we are making a submission for the UTRGV headquarters,” Ismael Delgado, executive director of the San Juan Economic Development Corporation told the Guardian. ““We read the RFP and we felt we had a good chance to submit something competitive.”
Delgado said that back in January, San Juan EDC was invited to make a power point presentation to the 10th Annual Edwards Abstract Commercial Real Estate Conference at the McAllen Convention Center.
“We said then that the City of San Juan was like Midway Island during World War II. We have the most strategically important real estate in Hidalgo County as we look towards the future,” Delgado said.
“If the UT System is looking to develop a regional university and they want to have access to all of South Texas, San Juan is pretty much equidistant from Rio Grande City and Brownsville. We are right in the middle on I-2. And, we are strategically situated to have quick access to the main campus in Edinburg on I-69-Central.”
Another plus, Delgado said, is that San Juan is part of the McAllen MSA. “We have the McAllen airport, the hospitals, all the amenities UT would need. Go down the checklist in the RFP and San Juan is very competitive,” he said.
Delgado said San Juan wants the main campuses for UTRGV, in Brownsville and Edinburg, to thrive. “Locating the UTRGV administration headquarters in San Juan would complement those campuses,” he said.
Delgado also said the fact that San Juan is home to nationally-recognized PSJA ISD is significant.
“We have a great school district under the direction of Dr. Danny King. Our ISD has received a lot of accolades and Dr. King was invited to the Clinton Global Initiative to showcase how he has turned around an underperforming ISD into one of the best in the state and the nation. We are working with a school district and the new university to develop a knowledge-based economy. It is easier said than done but we feel we have a lot of components to put it together.”
Asked what sort of incentive package San Juan is offering to the UT System, Delgado said: “I do not want to go into the specifics but we think it is a strong package. We are landlocked but we do have land extremely close to the expressway which offers easy access to the east, to the west and to the north. We think it is great land for the UT System to consider.”
Delgado added that the land San Juan is proposing to use for the UTRGV administration headquarters is currently privately owned. “It is not a gift to the state. It is private land. We are bringing attention to the UT System to say, look, there is some property here for sale. It would be a private transaction between the buyer and the seller - the buyer being the UT System and the seller being a private landowner.”
Delgado said San Juan can also offer stable and experienced local government to help manage the growth that is happening now and projected to continue. He also pointed to the fact that many high-end car dealerships have moved into San Juan.
“We are the only city in South Texas that has developed a cluster of high end car dealerships. We have Mercedes, Audi, Land Rover, Jaguar, and Acura coming up pretty soon. They are here because we are centrally located. We also have the Basilica, a million people coming to the Shine every year. There are a lot of good things happening in San Juan.”
The RFP does not state how much land is needed for the UTRGV admin buildings. However, it must be large enough to house a building with 100 full-time workers in it. There must also be room to grow on adjacent land, should UTRGV get bigger.
The RFP states that "the transaction may be a gift, a purchase, or a bargain purchase at a price below market value. The overall net cost to the Board of the Site and HQ Building, including all on-site and off-site costs, will be one of many factors considered in the selection of the Site."
The RFP also states that "the preference is for sites that are immediately available for construction, with utility infrastructure to at least perimeter of the property and adequate roadways for suitable access to the site."
Proximity to mass transportation is an important factor, the RFP states, as is quality of life for the workers at the HQ.
The RFP states that between May 15 and July 15 the sites will be evaluated, with one or more sites identified for negotiation. Between July 15 and August 31, negotiations will occur and a contract entered into, with Board approval of the selected site. Between August 31 and November 15, due diligence will be undertaken and other necessary approvals sought. Between November 15 and December 15, there will be a closing of the gift and/or sale transaction.