SAN BENITO, Texas – San Benito Economic Development Corporation is reflecting on a better than expected 2021.
The Rio Grande Guardian met up with some of the group’s leaders at an open house just before the holiday season began. They struck an optimistic note.
“This year (2021) has been a very good year,” said Rebeca Castillo, executive director of San Benito EDC. “In 2019 we did $5 million in economic activity. In 2020 it was $5.7 million. And this year, 2021, we are at $6.2 million.”
“We have had a lot of development. A lot of growth. Just in the downtown area we have added five additional businesses in the past two years. We are not where we want to be but we are making good strides in moving our community forward.”
Castillo noted that while the population of San Benito itself has remained steady at 25,000, there are 470,000 residents living within a 15 mile radius.
“Just this week I met with three prospects that want to come in and do housing developments,” Castillo said. The projects range from 55 units all the way up to 120 units. Some of the houses will be priced in the $100,000 to $120,000, with others in the $250,000 to $280,000. “They are looking at locations, Castillo said of the developers.
The big San Benito project unveiled during 2021 is being orchestrated by the City of San Benito in conjunction with Western Spherical Developers. The first phase of the RGV Epicenter will see a mixed use development covering 38 acres, including hotel, convention center, retail, dining, entertainment, wellness services, and a business center. RGV Epicenter is to be built at the intersection of I-69 and FM 509/Paseo Real. Phases one, two and three will cover 115 acres.
“The RGV Epicenter, on FM 509 and frontage, is another big element. We are looking to partner with the city because we do have a four-acre property there,” Castillo said.
The EDC’s role, Castillo said, will be to bring in major chain restaurants. “We are getting the right components in place. We have a great, progressive city commission. Our EDC board is very excited and wanting to be more strategic,” Castillo said.
The fact that Adrian Arriaga is working with San Benito EDC is telling, Castillo said. The prominent Rio Grande Valley commercial real estate broker is talking to two national companies about projects in San Benito. “That is a big deal,” Castillo acknowledged.
At the holiday season open house, the Rio Grande Guardian also interviewed San Benito EDC President Julian Rios.
“Our main focus is downtown but we are seeing San Benito is growing outside of the downtown area,” Rios said. “We are a small, family-oriented city but we are ready for that expansion into large, big box retail.”
Rios said he is hopeful that San Benito will benefit from SpaceX’s rocket launches at Boca Chica. He believes there is a lot of potential for more residential development spurred on by the growth of the space industry in the lower Rio Grande Valley. And, he said, retail development, invariably follows residential development. “We need to tap into SpaceX,” he said.
Asked about sprucing up his city’s downtown, Rios said the big challenge will be to create more parking spaces. “Some buildings need a lot of work. We have facade improvement grants.”
Rios said he is proud the EDC was able to provide extended rent subsidies to small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
Here is a podcast with Rebeca Castillo:
Here is a podcast with Julian Rios:
More about RGV Epicenter
David Miles, Western Spherical Developers, LLC, is leading the RGV Epicenter project. He said: “RGV Epicenter is planned as a destination for area residents, businesses, and visitors to have a place where a variety of needs and conveniences are met, where businesses offer job opportunities and valuable services, and where emerging technology and international business build
Miles said what started out as a 20-acre project has grown to a 115-acre multi-phased, mixed-use development. He predicted it would not only have a positive impact on downtown San Benito but also surrounding communities.
According to a City of San Benito news release, construction, development, and operation of RGV Epicenter will create approximately 319 full time construction jobs and 758 direct and indirect full time local jobs during the construction phase. Another 1,013 direct and indirect full time local jobs will be realized with the operation of the hotel and convention center. The news release said Phase 1 job opportunities include hospitality, retail, office workers, aeronautics, international business initiatives, and specialty services such as medical wellness.
Miles said completion of Phase 1 is anticipated by first quarter 2026. Initiation of construction for Phase 2 is anticipated to begin by first quarter 2023. Miles noted that completion of Phases 2 and 3, which are still at the concept and design stage, will depend on a number of factors.
“The overarching goals for Epicenter are to not only meet current needs of the San Benito community, but also anticipate community needs, create a center of community amenities, honor the history and culture, and create place for a thriving, innovative business community serving San Benito, the region and international markets,” Miles said. “RGV Epicenter is so much more than the typical mixed-use development. We want to be a community partner, too.”
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