Corporate Asset Partners has developed retail and business plazas across South Texas and one of its chief executives has come to a conclusion about Weslaco.
“The community has been underserved,” said Craig Garansuay of the San Antonio-based asset partners.
Garansuay has crunched the numbers and determined that Weslaco is above area market averages in some key consumer categories. In Weslaco, restaurants featuring hamburgers are 35 percent above area averages in that dining sector. With chicken-themed restaurants, it’s 34 percent better. Sit-down restaurants do 40 percent better over area market averages.
What it tells Garansuay is that many Weslaco residents stay closer to home and frequent the same businesses over-and-over.
“It’s how Weslaco is able to produce greater volume with less people,” he said in citing some adjacent communities with larger populations.
A Residential Shift
The data in hand is leading developers like Corporate Assets to accelerate projects in Weslaco. For CAP, it means completing a plaza along Expressway 83 in front of Lowe’s. The city’s first Wing Barn has already moved into the development. Weslaco’s second Starbucks is under construction at the same location.
It’s not only retail and restaurants. McAllen-based Domain Development made 86 lots available on Westgate Drive. These residential lots on Weslaco’s west side were sold out in less than 10 months. Esperanza Homes recently broke ground on a 180-lot housing development on Texas Boulevard north of the expressway. Esperanza’s president Nick Rhodes noted in a company press release that Weslaco has experienced “substantial growth over the past decade which encouraged the home building company to make a move into the growing Rio Grande Mid-Valley community.”
“Weslaco works because it’s a real city,” Garansuay said during a commercial and investment tour event recently at Weslaco City Hall. “It has a medical community, residential growth, an airport, good schools, all of the ingredients that lead to growth.”
Highlighting Its Location
The Rio Grande Valley’s growth trends are positioning Weslaco to serve the entire region from its mid-point location.
Individual community identities are giving way to a more regional perspective as the Valley grows into being more of a single metropolitan area.
“In the past, being in the Mid-Valley didn’t seem to be a big advantage because every community had its own identity,” said Steve Valdez, the executive director of the Weslaco Economic Development Corporation. “It means a lot more now to be centrally located with a regional identity.”
Garansuay called Weslaco “a hub in the Mid-Valley,” with a growing industrial park and quick access down FM 1015 to an international bridge in Progreso. The central location with ready access to highways and transportation corridors was a key consideration to H-E-B’s decision to place its Retail Support Center in Weslaco. The importance of that strategic move years ago has grown in importance as the center grew to serve stores in Laredo as well as those in the Valley. The center’s reach from Weslaco will soon grow further as it begins serving some H-E-B stores in the Coastal Bend.
“It’s because of our central location and the access we have regionally,” said JJ Serrano, the facilities leader at the retail support center, when discussing the expansion of his center.
Being in Weslaco has also given the H-E-B distribution center access to a wide employee applicant pool in the Valley. Workers come from throughout the region, commuting to a midpoint location just off the expressway.
City Upgrading Services
Weslaco is using its current momentum to push ahead with a series of community improvements.
The city recently broke ground for a new public safety/law enforcement building that will house the city’s police department. Plans are to build a new library. Several million dollars have been invested in improving drainage in the city. Flooding has been a persistent problem in Weslaco, including a section of Westgate near the H-E-B support center.
Albert Aldana, the city engineer for Weslaco, conceded at the tour event that drainage poses some “tough challenges” in his city. He then outlined the recent projects that have been completed to help alleviate the problem. There is much more to do on that front. Aldana says Weslaco has identified $84 million in drainage improvements that the city needs.
David Suarez, the city’s mayor, alluded to some of those challenges in his talk while being bullish about Weslaco’s future.
“It’s congested to the west of us,” the mayor said. “We still have a lot of land available by the expressway, so you’ll continue to see development come this way, all the way to Harlingen.”