(Editors note: This is the third in a series of articles that will examine the hotel’s history, its current condition and the impact it would have on downtown Brownwood if it is restored and reopened.)
Ray Tipton, executive director of the Brownwood Municipal Development District, owns a 1947 city directory. It was once located in a beauty shop inside the long-vacant, 12-story Brownwood Hotel.
Tipton said he ran across the relic in an antique shop a couple of years ago and bought it. “Last time I was in the hotel I actually went into the old beauty shop,” Tipton said. “Just going in there, I thought it was neat to be in the area where this directory sat in 1947.”
Tipton was first aware of the Brownwood Hotel when, as a high school student in the mid-’80s, he moved to Brownwood with his parents and siblings.
“I just remember the skyline,” Tipton said. “Obviously the building stands out. But being that age, it wasn’t anything that I gazed at and thought ‘one of these days we’re going to do something with it.’”
In March 2019, Tipton — eight months into his job as director of the municipal development district — addressed the Brownwood City Council about the hotel, located at the corner of Fisk and Baker in downtown Brownwood.
Council members that day ratified earlier action by the Brownwood Municipal Development District (BMDD) board in approving a feasibility study, to be conducted by Houston-based hotel consultant Randy McCaslin, at a cost of $30,000 plus out-of-pocket expenses of up to $5,000.
Tipton told council members the BMDD received a proposal at the BMDD’s request to conduct the study. A developer has expressed interest in the property and the study is a “needed first step” in the process of working with the developer, Tipton said. He did not name the developer. Staff has talked to the hotel’s owner, who has also requested the study and given consent to move forward, Tipton told council members.
Speaking in his office recently, Tipton said the BMDD has received a preliminary report from the consultant. “We’ve been reviewing it and we’ve asked for a couple of revisions, based on the number of rooms in the study,” Tipton said."We’re just waiting for some of those revisions to be done.
“The preliminary numbers seem pretty favorable. What we don’t have in this report are construction costs, and what the ultimate costs would be after you take into consideration the federal and state tax credits and other types of incentives.”
Tipton said “conversation” is ongoing between the owner and developer, and he talks with the developer on a regular basis. “He’s still working on financial analysis for the project,” Tipton said.
“We just want to be prepared to offer any reasonable assistance that may be needed to facilitate a development.”
The hotel is owned by an entity known as 200 Fisk LLC, records at the Brown County Appraisal District records state.
Jeff Tucker, who is preparing to open Teddy’s Brewhaus across the street from the Brownwood Hotel, is one of many who are championing the redevelopment of downtown Brownwood.
Tucker said he’s pleased a developer has expressed interest in the Brownwood Hotel.
“I think it’s got a great chance,” Tucker said. “He’s a serious guy.” Tucker said he’s familiar with a project the developer completed in another city and “it came out great.”
The renovation of the Brownwood Hotel “would mean a lot,” Tucker said. “Brownwood right now is about two hotels behind. We don’t have enough hotel space. I think it would be huge. It’s needed.”
Former Brownwood City Council member Jerry DeHay said he was aware of the hotel from his childhood, since he was born and raised in Brownwood. He thinks he may have been in the hotel once as a child.
“I remember my family going to something there on the main floor,” DeHay recalled. “My dad was with the telephone company and they may have had some kind of company party or something like that.”
DeHay was able to go inside the hotel in 2004 with some students from the Howard Payne University class he taught. DeHay wanted a vantage point for taking photos of downtown Brownwood to go along with a class project his students were involved in.
DeHay said he thinks of “all the possibilities” when he sees the hotel today.
A renovated and reopened Brownwood Hotel could be “a showcase kind of a place … a really special place,” DeHay said. “They could put in a first class dining area up there. With the things that are going on now, with what Jeff Tucker is doing and these other people, it would fit right in.
“You could have live music up there. You could do — goodness knows. All kinds of possibilities if it was put back the way it was.”
Tipton, the BMDD director, said he was working at the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce when the Brownwood Hotel “got more on my radar.”
“Digging through chamber archives, I came across a bunch of old pictures from Brownwood and it got me fascinated with Brownwood history,” Tipton said. “I got to digging into — not just those pictures — but the history of each of those buildings, and I just got a little fascinated. The hotel was included in that.”
Tipton began thinking what a great project it would be if some of the old buildings were restored. “You look back at the old photos, at how neat and active the downtown district was — that’s what got me interested in doing improvements downtown and digging into the background of the hotel itself,” Tipton said.
“From a size perspective, obviously anything done with the hotel is going to be the most expensive, but probably have the most impact as well.”
Tipton noted the “good momentum” that’s underway related to downtown development.
“You’ve got to have a reason for people to go downtown,” Tipton said. “You’ve got to give them things to do, and obviously, if we have something significant like a historic hotel renovation, where people can stay and eat and have rentable space, that’s going to have a huge impact.”
It would mean people being in the area, being able to do things, spending money and spending time, Tipton said.
“The capacity of what the hotel could bring could greatly shift momentum in downtown,” Tipton said. “We’ve had some momentum but it’s just going to augment that so much more.”
Tipton said he feels optimistic about the potential renovation of the hotel. He believes the developer who is currently interested is committed to the project. “I feel like he has the knowledge and ability to pull this off,” Tipton said. “I’m very optimistic.”