McALLEN — The cracked front parking lot serves as a reminder of the city’s southmost eyesore for the last eight years. So do the lack of landscaping, and construction out back.
But all that will change soon in the 2700 block of South 10th Street, where McAllen’s newest hotel has opened with five floors, 150 rooms, meeting space, full-service dining and an internationally recognized name: Radisson. The Radisson Hotel, open for nearly four weeks now, sits on South 10th Street, adjacent to the McAllen Country Club and at the entrance to Quinta Mazatlan, the birding and nature center that is about to undergo a years-long, more than $20 million facelift.
City officials are hoping the Radisson Hotel will complement Quinta Mazatlan as it attracts birders from around the world. This will also mark around 40 hotels totaling about 4,000 rooms in the city, according to Nancy Millar, vice president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.
Some local hoteliers have privately stewed about another hotel opening in McAllen, but The Radisson is hoping competition will be good for the market. And while the new hotel got rid of a large, vacant former hotel that welcomed visitors who drove north into McAllen from the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge, the foundation of the old building has remained intact.
And one of the old building’s employees has come back, too. General Manager Omar Guevara, a McAllen native, worked the front desk as an 18-year-old in 1986 at the old Hilton hotel. Since then, Guevara has worked in hotels across the Rio Grande Valley, West Texas and San Antonio. Now, he’s back where he started.
Guevara, known to those who have worked with him as an affable personality and aggressive marketer, has seen a strong presence of Mexican guests in the first month the Radisson Hotel has been open. This isn’t surprising to Guevara, who said he’s made advertising pushes south of the border and has attracted guests from Mexico City, Monterrey and the Tamaulipas cities of Tampico and Ciudad Victoria.
As advertising continues in Mexico, Guevara expects to host many business travelers from Mexico City. He also plans to work out packages with the Mexican airline Aeromar, which flies directly between McAllen and Mexico City, for prospective travelers to fly the airline and stay at his hotel.
The Radisson Hotel also includes a nod to former McAllen Mayor and incoming Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, with a meeting room named after him. Guevara and Cortez have been friends for years, and Guevara wanted to honor what Cortez has done for the city. Another room is named after McAllen, while another after the Texas state flower, the Bluebonnet.
With the seats in the lobby so new that they’re still stiff and the panels on the walls seemingly untouched, there’s still some work to do. Guevara said the hotel’s owners have put nearly $10 million in renovations, and they’re almost done.
“The parking lot out and landscaping out front we want to focus on before we finish the construction in the back,” Guevara said, looking out through the long windows in the rear of the hotel at the pool, children’s splash pad and the old, crackling tennis court.
“We’re going to turn that into an event space,” Guevara said of the tennis court.
The final renovating touches should be complete within 60 days, he added. Then, city officials hope the McAllen blemish will be completely removed and remodeled.
“It was an eyesore for such a long time,” Millar said. “Now, it’ll be a real asset to the city.”