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Featured, from left: During the Tuesday, October 18, 2016 unveiling for Bob’s Steak and Chop House at The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg are Elías Longoria, Jr., Member, Board of Directors, Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Dr. Peter Dabrowski, Member, Board of Directors, Edinburg EDC; Councilmember J.R. Betancourt; Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr.; Mayor Pro Tem Richard Molina; Harvey Rodriguez, Jr., Vice President, Board of Directors, Edinburg EDC; John Toic, President, First Hartford Realty; and Peter J. Higgins, Vice President/Director of Leasing of First Hartford Realty.

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The groundbreaking on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, of the multi-million dollar Bob’s Steak and Chop House, which is being built at The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, also drew attention to the ongoing development of a major “entertainment corridor” in South Texas that is designed to create jobs and improve the quality of life for the city. The Shoppes is located at 591 E. Trenton Road in Edinburg, right off U.S. Expressway 281, a six-lane highway which has become part of U.S. Interstate Highway 69. The Shoppes and Bob’s Steak and Chop House are perfectly located to draw business from at least three major entertainment venues now under construction along U.S. Expressway 281/IH 69C: H-E-B Park, which features a soccer-specific,9,700-seat stadium that will serve as home for the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros of the United Soccer League; the IMAX Theatre, which will be part of the existing Carmike 2o Cinemas; and Bert Ogden Arena, the 8,700-seat, 189,000 square-foot enclosed venue, which will be home to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, a professional basketball team associated with the D-League of the National Basketball Association.

Photographs By RONNIE LARRALDE

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Groundbreaking of Bob’s Steak and Chop House part of entertainment corridor now developing along I-69C/U.S. Expressway 281 in Edinburg

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

The groundbreaking on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, of the multi-million dollar Bob’s Steak and Chop House, which is being built at The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, also drew attention to the ongoing development of a major entertainment corridor in South Texas that is designed to create jobs and improve the quality of life for the city, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.

Dozens of business, political and community leaders, led by Mayor Pro Tem Richard Molina, Peter J. Higgins, Vice President/Director of Leasing of First Hartford Realty, Agustín García, Jr., Executive Director, Edinburg EDC, and John Toic, President, First Hartford Realty, participated in the mid-morning celebration, which represented the official unveiling for the five-restaurant plaza that will be anchored by the nationally-ranked Bob’s Steak and Chop House.

The identities of the four other restaurants will be announced at a later date.

Also featured at the event for what will eventually be a 40,000 square-foot showpiece restaurant plaza (Bob’s Steak and Chop House will take about 9,000 square-feet) were City Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr., City Councilmember J.R. Betancourt, Councilmember David Torres, Harvey Rodríguez, Jr., Vice President, Edinburg EDC Board of Directors, Elías Longoria, Jr., Member, Board of Directors, Edinburg EDC, Dr. Peter Higgins, Member, Edinburg EDC Board of Directors, City Manager Richard Hinojosa, Assistant City Manager Sonia Marroquín, Letty González, President, Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, and former City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr., who nows serves as President at RG Economic Advisors, Inc.

First Hartford Realty Corporation, headquartered in Connecticut, is engaged in the acquisition, development, and management of land and properties, and is the developer of The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley.

“The entertainment corridor that has been created here made us recognize The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley needed to join in the entertainment concept,” said Higgins. “To that end, we believe we have partnered with the best steakhouse in Texas, and want to participate in their growth of our initial licensees here at The Shoppes.”

The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, more popularly known as “The Shoppes”, is located at 591 E. Trenton Road in Edinburg, right off U.S. Expressway 281, a six-lane highway which has become part of U.S. Interstate Highway 69.

The Shoppes, which has been built on 130 acres of prime real estate, currently boasts around 450,000 square-feet of retail shops and related facilities, with plans to eventually grow to about one million square-feet in size.

Higgins pointed out that The Shoppes and Bob’s Steak and Chop House are perfectly located to draw business from at least three major entertainment venues now under construction along U.S. Expressway 281/IH 69:

• H-E-B Park, which features a soccer-specific,9,700-seat stadium that will serve as home for the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros of the United Soccer League;

• The IMAX Theatre, which will be part of the existing Carmike 2o Cinemas; and

• Bert Ogden Arena, the 8,700-seat, 189,000 square-foot enclosed venue, which will be home to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, a professional basketball team associated with the D-League of the National Basketball Association.

“Bert Ogden Arena, which not only will be a sports venue, but a year-round entertainment venue as well, managed by Live Nation, and the Vipers, a professional basketball team will operate out of Bert Ogden Arena. In addition, we will have H-E-B Park just up the way, housing another professional sports team in soccer,” Higgins explained. “People have asked me several times recently, ‘Why Edinburg, Texas?’ Well, I’ll tell you why. It is a tremendous growth environment. If you look at the city itself with its growth, a (planned) County Courthouse, several world-class hotels, a nationally-ranked university, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the two arenas that are coming shortly right adjacent to our site.”

Mayor Pro Tem Molina praised First Hartford Realty, the Mayor and fellow members of the Edinburg City Council, the Board of Directors of the Edinburg EDC, and other commercial, business and residential developers for believing in Edinburg.

Molina also gave credit to citizens for their roles in the setting high standards for their elected leadership.

“We feel pressure, there is a sense of urgency, sometimes, for the Mayor and the Council for us to produce. Anytime you catch us at Walmart or H-E-B shopping with our families, we are always approached, ‘When are you guys going to make a play, when are you going to do something?’” said Molina, who was representing Mayor Richard García, an attorney by profession who was in court and could not make the groundbreaking.

“You know, it takes a team effort, and it comes down to relationships, the relationships that we have with First Hartford, first and foremost, and (Edinburg EDC Executive Director Agustín) “Gus” García, over the past couple of years, has established a relationship with First Hartford,” Molina added. “Gus, excellent job, buddy. We are proud of you and we are glad to have you on our team.”

Other highlights of key remarks provided by First Hartford and city leaders at the event follow:

Peter J. Higgins
Vice President/Director of Leasing
First Hartford Realty
and
Operating Partner
Bob’s Steak and Chop House

On behalf of the City of Edinburg, First Hartford Reality, and of course, The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley, I would like to welcome you to the groundbreaking, no pun intended, of Bob’s Steak and Chop House. My name is Peter Higgins. Most of you know me as the director of leasing for the past several years here at The Shoppes. Today is a special day for me as I will start to wear two hats, as the operating partner of Bob’s Steak & Chop House in Edinburg, Texas.

We are very excited to partner with Bob’s. I have experienced tremendous growth here in the City of Edinburg, and I am very impressed with the dedication and commitment of the city to their growth and commerce and community. People have asked me several times recently, “Why Edinburg, Texas?” Well, I’ll tell you why.

As I mentioned, it is a tremendous growth environment. If you look at the city itself with its growth, a (planned) County Courthouse, several world-class hotels, a nationally-ranked university, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the two arenas that are coming shortly right adjacent to our site.

Bert Ogden Arena, which not only will be a sports venue, but a year-round entertainment venue as well managed by Live Nation, and the Vipers, a professional basketball team will operate out of Bert Ogden Arena. In addition, we will have H-E-B Park just up the way, housing another professional sports team in soccer.

The entertainment corridor that has been created here made us recognize The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley need to join in the entertainment concept. To that end, we believe we have partnered with the best steakhouse in Texas, and want to participate in their growth of our initial licensees here at The Shoppes.

We are confident that we will do terrific business. We invite you to experience elegant dining in a comfortable atmosphere, both for social dining as well as very important corporate entertaining.

At this time, I would like to introduce Mayor Pro Tem Richard Molina to say a few words on behalf of the City.

Mayor Pro Tem Richard Molina

We feel pressure, there is a sense of urgency, sometimes, for the mayor and the council for us to produce. Anytime you catch us at Walmart or H-E-B shopping with our families, we are always approached, “When are you guys going to make a play, when are you going to do something?”

You know, it takes a team effort, and it comes down to relationships, the relationships that we have with First Hartford, first and foremost, and (Edinburg EDC Executive Director Agustín) Gus García, over the past couple of years, has established a relationship with First Hartford.

Of course, us as a City Council have allowed us the leeway to do it.

I am going to ask the City Council and the Edinburg EDC Board of Directors to stand up. Let’s have a round of applause for them, and for the job these guys are doing. They really pour their hearts out.

I was taking my boy to basketball practice, and I was shooting the breeze with somebody, and he said, “You guys must make a lot of money doing what you do. You guys are the bosses of the City.”

I said, “Well, it’s volunteer work is what it is, and a lot of people don’t believe that we sacrifice a lot of time away from our families and from our personal and business, and sometimes, that does get affected. But to be able to stand here today before you and bring this restaurant, Bob’s Steak and Chop House, is ginormous. I’m excited.

This all started with a conversation. It was me, Councilmember J.R. Betancourt, Rep. Terry Canales, and other people, and we were eating at Bob’s Steak and Chop House during a conference in Dallas. We were sharing an idea on how great it would be great to bring this place to Edinburg. Just an idea. But from there, Gus García took over along with our Edinburg EDC Board of Directors. I am very proud that they did. This is going to be here long after we are retired and doing something else. But this will be something that for years and years we will remember that we did something special.

Gus, excellent job, buddy. We are proud of you and we are glad to have you on our team.

Peter J. Higgins

At this time, I would like to invite Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr. to say a few words on behalf of the Council.

Councilmember Homer Jasso, Jr.

I would like to read this letter from Bill Lenox, who is the owner of Bob’s Steak and Chop House. He was unable to be here, but he did ask me to read his letter to you:

“To the City of Edinburg. I want to say how sorry I am that I could not be with you today. I have serious lower back issues that are preventing me from traveling.

“We at Bob’s Steak and Chop House are very excited to have a Bob’s Steak and Chop House going to Edinburg, Texas. We have had several opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley and chose Edinburg because of our faith in Peter Higgins, his team, and the mayor and the city officials of Edinburg. Their optimistic desire for a Bob’s was hard to resist.

“Gus García in particular helped us construct a business framework that satisfied us all. We are confident that Peter Higgins will build a spectacular facility that will represent our brand and the City of Edinburg for years to come, one that we will all be proud of. I personally look forward to many fun dinners at the Edinburg Bob’s, and I am counting the days to the opening.

“Being a sports fan, the proximity to our new sports arena and stadium is an added benefit. Edinburg is on course for a tremendous growth, and we at Bob’s Steak and Chop House are thrilled to be a part of it. We are prepared to do all we can to ensure its success.

“I would like to thank you again for placing your faith in our brand. We will not let you down.

Sincerely,

Bill Lenox

Peter J. Higgins

Now I would like to invite my very good friend, for whom I have a lot of respect, and I call him a “doer” – Gus García.

Agustín (Gus) García, Jr.

As you are hearing today, a lot of stuff is happening in Edinburg, and no one could be more happy than the gentlemen you see before you. As Mayor Pro Tem Molina mentioned, there is a lot that goes into what you are seeing happing all around us.

Bob’s Steak and Chop House is more than a steak restaurant. Bob’s Steak and Chop House is in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Florida, and now in New York City. A lot of you can attest that Texas is very proud of steak, that we do a good job of it, and Bob’s consistently wins “Best Steak” in those cities year in and year out.

It’s about branding the City of Edinburg, and making Edinburg a “Destination City”, and Bob’s Steak and Chop House is one of the finest dining establishments in the Rio Grande Valley – prime, Five-Star steakhouses are something we currently don’t have in the Rio Grande Valley. We do have some excellent steak houses, don’t get me wrong. But a Five-Star steakhouse is something the Rio Grande Valley is ready for, and we believe Bob’s Steak and Chop House is going to meet that challenge.

I want to read a list of cities to you: Austin, Carlsbad (California), Dallas, Ft. Worth, New York City, Nashville, Plano, San Antonio, San Francisco, Houston, Tucson (Arizona), and Edinburg – (home to) Bob’s Steak and Chop House.

Another list: Bethesda (Maryland), Los Angeles, Baltimore, Rochester (Minnesota), Boston, Houston, Cleveland, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, San Francisco, Durham (North Carolina), Edinburg – where a medical school is located.

Birmingham (Alabama), Tuscaloosa (Alabama), Fresno (California), Phoenix, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Denver, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta, Boises (Idaho), Chicago, Indianapolis, Boston, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Brooklyn, Rochester (New York), Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Philadelphia, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Seattle, Edinburg – where IMAX is located.

Peoria (Arizona), Colorado Springs, Carson (Oklahoma), Irving, Portland, Sandy (Utah), Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, Seattle, Kansas City, Tulsa, Vancouver, Bethlehem (Pennsylvania), Charleston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Montreal, Harrisburg (Pennsylvania), Louisville (Kentucky), Harrison (New Jersey), West Lakes (Florida), Pittsburg, Richmond (Virginia), Rochester (New York), Wilmington (North Carolina), Nashville, Reno, Edinburg – where a United Soccer League team is located.

Austin, Canton (Ohio), Erie (Pennsylvania), Ft. Wayne (Indiana), Grande Rapids (Michigan), Greensboro (North Carolina), Des Moines, Uniondale (New York), El Segundo (California), Portland, Prescott Valley (Arizona), Oklahoma City, the list goes on where you find D-League Basketball and sports arenas – and Edinburg, Texas.

I have a handout I want to pass out. I want you to look at something. It’s a chart. The benchmark in the Rio Grande Valley is annual construction permits, and Edinburg, I am proud to announce, is going to hit $180 million in construction permits from January through September of this year. That is a figure we have not seen in many, many years. Not all of this happens in a vacuum. That way it happens is through good leadership, a lot of challenging times, a lot of negotiations, a lot of discussions with my (Edinburg) EDC Board of Directors, the Mayor and the City Council.

I also want to recognize some of the other people who are part of this. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights that City Manager Richard Hinojosa and Assistant City Manager Sonia Marroquín endured, and I want to thank former City Manager Ramiro Garza, Jr. – you are also part of this growth.

Like Peter (Higgins) said, there is a lot happening in Edinburg: many vendors, retailers, shopping, and organizations are looking at this site (The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley) because it is becoming a destination location.

The Edinburg EDC along with our Board of Directors, Mayor and City Council are working with First Hartford and we are bringing a total of 60,000 square feet of new dining and shopping experiences to this location, including Bob’s Steak and Chop House. This is truly going to become a generator of sales taxes and property taxes for our community.

I want to thank First Hartford for partnering with us in negotiating a strong deal to be able to get the Bert Ogden Arena. There are an additional 400,000 square feet that will be coming to The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley. I also want to thank John Toic, the President of First Hartford, in helping us negotiate this and helping this come to fruition, and thank the community for helping provide these robust opportunities for jobs. We thank you very much for investing your time and efforts into our city.

Peter J. Higgins

Next on the agenda is John Toic, who two years ago became President of First Hartford Realty. Prior to that, John was the catalyst for The Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley. He put all the land together to enable us to go forward. We are 130 acres, and keep in mind, we are only halfway there. We have another close to half a million square feet to open up here at The Shoppes. We want to continue to be part of the Edinburg family. John, if you would say a few words on behalf of First Hartford.

John Toic
President
First Hartford Realty

It is very gratifying to join you here. Not too long ago, when we sat here in front of an audience with the huge sorghum fields behind us. It is so gratifying that during the Great Recession (in the United States, from 2007 to 2009), we began this shopping center project that has come out of the ground and has been as successful as it has been. Now, we are looking forward to the next signing wave of what we are going to be doing, and starting off that wave with Bob’s Steak and Chop House.

Gus, I really appreciated what you were saying about including Edinburg amongst all the other great cities in the nation, but I will tell you that as a national developer, having developed properties from the West Coast to the South, and especially in the Northeast and in New England, one thing that Edinburg has that I can say with certainty none of those other cities enjoy, and that is a committed, professional economic development corporation such as your own, and support of the City Council since Day One of this project, and support of the Edinburg EDC Board of Directors along the way. It’s been unparalleled and there is no question that the reason we are here today and able to have this groundbreaking, so thank you all.

In the weeks ahead, we will be able to shape this project. We are looking forward to getting started in the next weeks, to begin the side works to come out of the ground what we believe will be a premier facility in this region. It is going to be a trademark and staple of this shopping center, where 120,000 cars pass by here every day. This is a very exciting time for all of us.

I wanted to again thank the Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, the City Council, Gus García, everyone on the Edinburg EDC staff, the city manager, and the hard-working employees of the City of Edinburg, for making this dream come true. We look forward to joining you for steak early this spring.

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For more information on the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation and the City of Edinburg, please log on to http://edinburgedc.com or to http://www.facebook.com/edinburgedc

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