Iconic Harlingen building wins state honors for renovation project

HARLINGEN — It’s been the Rio Grande National Life Insurance Building, Blaschka Tower and the Baxter Building at different points in its 92-year existence.

Now, the nine-story Baxter Building can be called an award-winner.

The Texas Downtown Association announced that the $4.5 million renovation project, which turned the abandoned eyesore into the 24-unit Baxter Lofts, is its first-place winner in the statewide Best Renovation/Rehab/Restoration category in cities over 50,000 population.

“Everybody was in shock, because we were up against quite a few good other Main Street projects,” Alexis Alaniz, downtown director, said Wednesday.

MRE Capital bought the building from the city for $250,000 and was awarded $3.3 million by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to build affordable housing to meet federal guidelines.

Renovation contractor was Rosin Preservation, which like MRE Capital, is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Downtown Baxter Lofts Project was awarded 1st Place Best Renovation/Rehabilitation/Restoration by the Texas Downtown Association. (Maricela Rodriguez/Valley Morning Star)

Residents began moving into the apartments in 2019.

The building opened in 1927 and immediately became the tallest edifice in the Rio Grande Valley. But by the late 1960s, the building was showing obvious signs of neglect, a sore sight often blamed for inhibiting the downtown area’s revitalization.

“This is something the city is very proud of and so is the Community Improvement Board and our downtown board,” Alaniz said. “It is great to get this recognition. It’s only going to go up from here. We have many potential projects we’re wanting to do in making downtown Harlingen a destination, and this is just a start of it.”

“This will give us a boost of confidence and encouragement to continue making downtown a destination, and continue doing the restoration of these historical buildings,” she added.

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