Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes again opted for a talk show format for his annual State of the City address Friday, beginning with a humorous monologue and ending with a homily to “the blessing of life in small-town America.”
Sandwiched in between were presentations on topics including downtown development, the potential creation of an event center, upcoming Howard Payne University construction projects and a 2019 retrospective.
Haynes gave the presentation at the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon, held at the Coggin Avenue Baptist Church Connection Center.
“If 2018 was the year of the doughnut, 2019 was the year of the chicken,” Haynes said in his opening monologue and references the opening of the Popeye's Chicken and Wing Stop restaurants last year in Brownwood.
HPU construction plans
As he did in last year’s State of the City presentation, Haynes played talk show host and brought guests onto the stage, where props had been set up to resemble a talk show TV format, and quizzed them on topics.
The audience was shown a video in which Haynes earlier interviewed HPU president Dr. Cory Hines and athletic director Hunter Sims. Hines spoke briefly in the video about HPU’s two upcoming construction projects — building a welcome center and remodeling the Academy of Freedom.
HPU will release additional details next week, the university said.
Haynes was joined on the stage by Brown Reynolds Watford Architects representatives Jennifer Bettiol and Emily Cloat for a presentation on a potential event center.
Last September, Brownwood City Council members approved hiring the Dallas firm to provide schematic drawings for a facilities improvement project. That project could include a multi-use event center and outdoor event and concert stage venue.
The city is considering renovating the old city-owned Timmins Building, located near the Brownwood Coliseum, into an event center and demolishing the old ice house to create an outdoor venue.
The council has not taken any action toward the project beyond hiring the firm to create schematic drawings, which are needed before architectural drawings can be done.
“This first phase has taken us about two to three months while we have done some studying of existing facilities, looked at the structure, figured out what it’s gong to entail," Bettiol said. "We’re probably going to be looking at, around four to six more months, finishing the design and construction documents.”
Construction, if the city goes ahead with the project, will take 18 to 24 months, Bettiol said.
“You’ve worked really hard on the revitalization of downtown and it’s been a great success,” Bettiol said. “You have this wonderful train depot and of course the railroad museum. You have your incredible landmark with the coliseum, which has been very successful with providing a space for not only Howard Payne but for local events as well. But to find that middle area event center, the Timmins really aligns with that idea.”
Many who see the Timmins Building’s interior see “a lot of spray foam insulation and a great storage area,” Bettiol said.
“But when we walked in there … you have this incredible two-story space that really lends to language we’re seeing time and time again at event centers. You have a historical value to it but it’s going to give you a space that can be dressed and elegant, but it can be casual as well.”
Haynes asked the two to explain the concept of the outdoor venue at the ice house site.
“You have incredible grounds around there,” Bettiol said.
The venue could include space for large concerts and outdoor venues as well as a secondary stage for smaller settings, Bettiol said.
“This is a great place for your community to congregate,” Bettiol said. She said there would be space for events including farmers markets and arts and craft shows.
Bettiol said they’re seeing event centers “spring up all over the place. Most of those are privately owned. The flavor of this is quite unique to your city,” Bettiol said.
Cloat said facilities such as event centers help bring in business, tourism and visitors. “It also helps keep local people local, and it just helps dress up the image of the area,” Cloat said. “It gives it a family friendly feel.