The Valley’s Urban Future


Creative. Innovative. Talented. Those are just some of the words that some in McAllen’s business and civic communities might use to describe Sam Garcia and his team at Sam Garcia Architect, LLC.

For 10 years, Sam Garcia has been driven to transform the landscape of McAllen and other Rio Grande Valley communities into meccas of urban design.

The drive to build things, and the desire to create visionary architecture that rivals the skylines of other Texas cities in his adopted hometown, was something that sprung to life in Sam Garcia when he was very young.

Sam, who was 12 years old at the time, remembers the excitement he and his parents shared as they drew up their own floor plan and design for what became their dream home.

“I got to be involved with it and see that process unfold,” he said.

His parents didn’t have any construction experience, Garcia said. His father drove a school bus for a living, and his mother was a secretary, so they spent many weekends at the public library researching house plans and were able to take their ideas to the builder to create their custom floor plan.

It was amazing to see it all come to life. After the family moved into their dream home, Sam would ride his bike through the neighborhood to see the homes families were building.

“That was, to me, a formative experience in my life,” he said. “I enjoyed seeing how construction was done. I enjoyed looking at the floor plans and the drawings, and walking through the site while the work was being done. It was always kind of a neat thing [to me].”

In the summer of 1997, he unknowingly took the first step toward that future when he took a campus tour at the University of Texas-Austin.

The students were taken to the College of Business and the College of Natural Sciences, the College of Engineering. Still, none of those areas resonated with Sam.

“I asked the tour guide to take the group to see the College of Architecture,” he said. “When we walked into the school, the environment was completely different. I realized then, that this is what I wanted to do.”

Garcia fell in love with the campus and the College of Architecture. He began taking classes in 1998. He set goals, which at the time, didn’t include living and working in the Rio Grande Valley.

That all began to change the summer before he graduated in 2004. Garcia was working as a student intern for an urban planning firm in San Francisco, and learning a great deal about transit systems and urban development.

One Saturday afternoon, Garcia was sitting with a laminated map of McAllen and sipping a cup of coffee. He began doing an urban analysis on the map, and he suddenly began seeing how changes could be implemented.

“I really began to see the city in a way that I’d never seen it before,” he said. “Even though it was my hometown, and I’d spent my childhood there, I had this new set of eyes. I realized this was a much richer place than I ever gave it credit for.”

For the first time in his life, Garcia said he was a fan of the Valley and of his hometown.

A few short weeks after his graduation in 2004, Garcia joined the A-3 Design Competition Team for a five-month assignment in Madrid, Spain.

In 2008, Garcia returned to McAllen and honed his skills for five years at ROFA Architects before launching his own business in 2013.

Since then, Garcia and his team have designed numerous projects that include the Cavazos Sports Institute, Mirabelle Plaza, Domain Shopping Center, the College of Health Care Professions, and Tres Lagos Community Center and Pool.

“The Valley and McAllen is still such a young place,” he said. “It’s barely coming into its own, when you compare it to other cities or urban areas.”

In March, Sam Garcia Architect, LLC. celebrated its 10th anniversary.

While the last decade has been chock-full of building a successful business, there’s still that dream that Garcia holds close to make a difference in the development of the McAllen community and the Rio Grande Valley.

“The best is yet to come,” Garcia said. “There’s a lot of upside and a lot of potential here in the Valley. I’m excited that I’ve been able to play a role in shaping my hometown for the better.”