Brownwood Hotel building goes under contract for sale
It was October 2019, and Jeff Tucker was preparing for the opening of his new business, "Teddy’s Brewhaus."
Tucker was pleased that a developer had expressed interest in buying and renovating the former Brownwood Hotel, the 12-story, long-vacant building at Fisk and Baker streets — just across the street from Teddy’s.
The renovation of the historic building, which opened in 1930, “would mean a lot,” Tucker said in an interview on that October afternoon at Teddy’s, which was a few days away from seeing its first customers.
That developer did not end up buying the building, which is owned by an entity known as 200 Fisk LLC.
Nearly two years later, Tucker’s company, Pecan Bayou Enterprises, has entered a contract with 200 Fisk LLC to buy the iconic brown-brick building — the tallest structure, by far, in Brown and neighboring counties.
The building, which was also once known as Sid Richardson Hall when Howard Payne University used it as a dorm, has been vacant since 1986.
Tucker stressed that the purchase is under contract — it’s not complete.
“We have a contract on the building to purchase, and right now, as of Monday, we are in our due diligence study phase for the purchase,” Tucker said Wednesday.
“We’ve got a short window for due diligence. Within 90 days we’ll close, and that’s if everything checks out with the building. I don’t think we’re going to find any surprises. I hope we don’t. But if we do, we’ll deal with it. It’s like any real estate purchase. You have a set time to do your due diligence, and then you close.”
Tucker is optimistic that the experts who are examining the building won’t find any deal-killing issues, and the closing on the purchase is tentatively set for late September.
‘A boutique hotel’
Tucker said he envisions a renovation and development that is expected to include a restaurant and the restoration of the top-floor ballroom. It will take at least a year of planning, and probably five years of construction to complete the multi-million-dollar project, Tucker said.
“We’ve got a general idea,” Tucker said of the development. “These things morph as you get into them, but I see it for now as a boutique hotel. They call them boutique hotels because of the size of the rooms that existed from that time period and is largely characterized by its smaller size, personalized service and local personality, which can vary dramatically depending on where the property is located.
“You’ll have some rooms over there that will still be left as efficiencies. You’ll have some that will be suites. You’ll have some that will be combined into larger suites. You might create some retail space in it. If downtown living was something that was viable, you might even create that.”
History of the building
Articles published in newspapers and other publications show Hotel Brownwood, as it was once known, opened Nov. 21, 1930, owned and operated by the Southern National Hotel Corp. of Galveston.
The hotel had 216 rooms, a coffee shop and dining room. An article written by local historian Clay Riley, published on the Pecan Valley Genealogical Society Facebook page, also gives the hotel’s history including:
- November 1929 — a group of Brownwood businessmen announced plans to build a 12-story hotel.
- January 1930 — a contract was awarded to J.O. Everett and Co. of Dallas to built the hotel. Total bids approached $375,000.
- February 1930 — excavation of the basement began.
- November 1930 — the hotel was completed with a grand ballroom on the 12th floor, a coffee shop, beauty shop and barber shop.
- According to Riley’s article, the hotel was “the place” for important civic, school and organizational banquets. Through the 1960s, the hotel was the destination for visitors to Brownwood.
- Mid-1960s — the hotel was known as the Browntowner Moter Inn and was nearing its end as a profitable hotel, Riely’s article states.
- December 1968 — the Sid W. Richardson Foundation purchased the hotel as a gift to HPU for male student housing. The building became Sid Richardson Hall.
- Fall 1986 — HPU closed the hall and the residents were moved to Jennings Hall.
A 1996 article published in the HPU Yellow Jacket student newspaper gave further history.
After HPU closed Sid Richardson hall, the building was purchased by a man named Mitchell Phelps of Woodbridge, Va. Phelps intended to remodel the building and reopen it as a hotel, the Yellow Jacket article stated. The article further states the task required more money and time than Phelps wanted to give, so he put the building up for sale.
‘Let’s do something with the Brownwood Hotel’
The history books would show a long gap of little to no activity regarding the building since HPU moved out in the mid-1980s. That changed in March 2019, when Brownwood City Council members took a step that could lead to the sale and renovation of the building.
That’s when council members approved a feasibility study on the hotel by Houston-based hotel consultant Randy McCaslin. The Brownwood Municipal Development District (BMDD) payed the $30,000 cost of the study in addition to the consultant’s out-of-pocket expenses of up to $5,000.
Ray Tipton, executive director of the municipal development district, told council members the BMDD received a proposal at the BMDD’s request to conduct the study. A developer had expressed interest in the property and the study was a “needed first step” in the process of working with the developer, Tipton told council members then.
“It’s always been everybody’s dream — ‘let’s do something wth the Brownwood Hotel,’” Tipton told council members. “I hear that time and again.”
While Tucker was not the developer to whom Tipton referred, Tucker was certainly aware of the building, which is visible through a window in Teddy’s Brewhaus. Tucker was already having conversations with the building’s owner.
“I’ve been talking with the owner for over four years,” Tucker said Wednesday. “We had approached them at that time to see if this was a project that could be created as a historic renovation.
“There have actually been several people interested in the property, and rightfully so. There’s not many buildings like this left in Texas. How many high-rises do you know within a 100-mile radius of Brownwood? When you start looking at these types of historic buildings — whether it’s the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, or the Barfield Hotel being completed in Amarillo or even the hotels down in San Saba — these types of things are gems that are left to either be destroyed or renovated. Our hope is to create a historic renovation on the old hotel.”
The experts will speak
Tucker explained some of the “due diligence” steps that need to be completed.
“I’ve already done some previous cursory inspections of the property,” Tucker said. “I’ve had some engineers walk through with me on the property, and we’ve contracted experts to check for structural integrity. And on a structure like this, too, you have to create systems for public health and safety, fire and safety. Those we’ve hired for our inspections — very specific tasks to explore what you can do or can’t do for the structure.
“I’ve got an engineer coming out of Dallas who is going to go in and take core samples of concrete, for example. They’re going to check on the brick facade. They’re going to check on the roof. There’s a survey that has to be done of the physical property itself. There’s a whole litany of things that we’ll be checking in that 90 days.”
‘So many things that we could do’
Tucker described himself as a visual person who sees opportunity.
“And by that, I mean — if all of the structural engineering checks out positive like we think it will — then our next steps are, how do we bring that building up to code within the renovation that needs to be done?” Tucker said.
“I look at that building and I think, there are so many things that we could do to make this a positive outcome for this community, but also for people passing through who visit this community.”