The city of McAllen set aside $450,000 in December for a feasibility study on Boeye Reservoir.
Mayor Javier Villalobos and the City Commission want to drain the reservoir, which is located on prime commercial property, and make the land available for development. The feasibility study may provide the City Commission with more information about potential development options.
“We need to make sure we’re doing it the right way,” Villalobos said.
Located south of Interstate 2 between 23rd Street and Bicentennial Boulevard, the reservoir is among the largest pieces of undeveloped land in McAllen with highway access.
The City Commission discussed several plans for Boeye Reservoir during the past decade. They all died on the drawing board.
Recent proposals included a deal with Amazon, which planned to build a fulfillment center in the Rio Grande Valley, and a commercial development anchored by a “Crystal Lagoon.”
The City Commission discussed options for Boeye Reservoir in executive session, which isn’t open to the public, because they involved economic development.
Documents released under the Texas Public Information Act, however, show members of the City Commission traveled to Florida in February 2019 to visit Epperson, a community that features a man-made lagoon. The documents were marked “Project Blue Tour Site.”
After the latest round of discussions, the City Commission appears ready to move forward with plans for a mixed-use development that would incorporate some kind of water feature.
“We are exploring different options, but for sure we are going to choose something that is going to be attractive,” said City Commissioner Jose R. “Pepe” Cabeza de Vaca.
City Commissioner Tony Aguirre said the mixed-use development could include restaurants, retailers, a boardwalk, commercial space and different types of residential buildings.
“Everything from hotels to lofts to some actual town homes,” Aguirre said.
The city may partner with a private developer and keep part of the property for public amenities.
McAllen used a similar playbook near the intersection of Interstate 2 and Ware Road.
The development, which is called Palms Crossing, features restaurants and retailers along the Interstate 2 frontage road.
McAllen incorporated a city-owned convention center and performing arts center into the development. It also set aside land for several hotels.
The feasibility study is a first step that may provide the City Commission with more information about the reservoir property itself, which needs to undergo an environmental assessment; the cost of filling the reservoir and installing utilities; and development options.
“It is a study, but it’s a little more than a study,” Aguirre said. “Because we’ve got to look at what it’s going to cost us, also, to drain it.”
The city budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which started on Oct. 1, included $1.8 million for “proposed fill of site for future development and site infrastructure.” The total project cost is listed as $26.4 million.
While the feasibility study may seem expensive, Villalobos said, it’s a small price to pay before committing a much larger amount of money.
“We know we have to invest to get the returns,” Villalobos said.