BROWNSVILLE, Texas (KVEO) – Brownsville may finally see the downtown revitalization residents have been talking about for years, and it all may be thanks to SpaceX.
The ongoing pandemic brought much of the retail business in downtown Brownsville to one of its lowest points.
With travel from Mexico restricted and many residents not shopping in person, many businesses were closed throughout the course of last year.
Boarded-up storefronts can be seen all along Elizabeth Street and surrounding roads, which were once the epicenter of commerce between Brownsville and Matamoros.
But that all may change soon.
Elon Musk has promised the City of Brownsville 10 million dollars to revitalize its downtown.
While plans for that money have not been announced publicly, Mayor Trey Mendez has met with the Musk Foundation to discuss the best use of the money.
Even before Musk promises to help the downtown area, there were individuals who saw the potential and had already started investing in it themselves.
Dr. Diane Garza, the owner of the Milliken-Garza Gallery, debuted the Boca Chica to Mars exhibit just days after learning of Musk’s promised to revitalize the very same area the gallery is located in.
The gallery has already started attracting people to the area. On opening day, the gallery brought over 400 people downtown, and many more have come to visiting afterward to view the mural of Elon Musk painted on the building next door.
“Within probably two weeks, it’s become iconic. We have people from all over the world coming to photograph themselves and their family and tell their story in front of this mural,” said Garza.
In its past life, the Livery building, where the gallery is located, was intended to be a horse stable. Like many of the buildings downtown, it is exterior façade tells of a time now passed.
But that history is still there and so is the historic façade. Before The building became home to the gallery, it was restored by a local company, OrigoWorks.
Garza’s gallery started with a vision of what could be done to bring up the area.
“I started doing research on what other successful cities do, that maybe we could do, and one of the main things is polishing up and promoting arts and culture,” said Garza.
The gallery features local photographers who have been chronicling the development of the SpaceX lunch site on Boca Chica.
“The world wanted to know what’s happening on Boca Chica beach, and they’re telling that story,” said Garza.
Many of the photographers featured have built an online following in the thousands. With the SpaceX fandom growing, people around the world are turning to South Texas locals to provide them with the images.
Freelance photographer Pedro De La Fuente travels to the Boca Chica site on a weekly basis to photograph the development.
He has collaborated with partners in Canada, Hungary, and Poland to provide them with images and video streams from the site.
“It wasn’t until I started collaborating with other people, and they were not people from here, they were people from other countries, that’s when I started realizing how big this was,” said De La Fuente.
What started off as an interest for De La Fuente has become part of his everyday life.
“There’s a ton of opportunity, not just for aerospace, but in other fields, and that’s what we need to think about,” said De La Fuente.
Garza feels it is up to locals to determine how we shape our future now that SpaceX is here.
The gallery itself is a collaboration between local investors, sponsors, renovators, visionaries, and photographers that would have never happened without SpaceX.
“We have the chance to improve our local economy, now, better than we’ve had in a generation,” said Garza.
There will be an encore event for the Boca Chica to Mars exhibit on June 12, at 1009 E Adams St, Brownsville, Texas. Tickets can be purchased here.