By Miriam Suarez, Brownsville Downtown District Manager
Once a thriving commercial district, Downtown Brownsville fell on hard times in the 1980s after the devaluation of the Mexican peso, but downtown is experiencing a resurgence as public investment in historic structures and open spaces is attracting private investment.
Since 2009, the City of Brownsville has invested over $55 million in Downtown Brownsville. One Main Street designation and two catalyst projects —the Market Square Renovation which closed Market Square street to vehicular traffic to create a pedestrian-friendly plaza and the rehabilitation of the Stegman Building—helped spark renewed interest in downtown.
Built in 1912, the Stegman Building is located just newly rehabilitated building will house the Revival of Cultural Arts (ROCA)—a non-profit whose mission is to provide opportunities for the community to experience art, music, and cultural events. ROCA will partner with various local organizations to provide free music and dance lessons to children in the community, particularly the Buena Vida neighborhood—an economically distressed neighborhood adjacent to Downtown Brownsville.
The multi-year $10.5 million project was funded by the City of Brownsville and HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Program. Specialized restoration techniques were implemented to salvage and repurpose original building materials such as the 100-year-old brick and the wood paneling that now adorn the lobby area.
In June, the city hosted a soft opening and over 200 attendees were present to tour the two-story facilities, which include a state-of-the-art 40-member orchestra room, two dance studios, and various music rehearsal rooms. The Brownsville Performing Arts Academy is slated to open its doors in September 2019.