Developer: Sale of Brownwood Hotel building finalized
The sale of the former Brownwood Hotel to developer Jeff Tucker and his company, Historic Brownwood Texas Hotel LLC, has been finalized.
The deal to purchase the vacant12-story building in downtown Brownwood closed Wednesday, three months after Tucker announced his company had entered a contract to purchase the iconic property from Myrna Phelps of Virginia.
“It will be a historic preservation so we’ll rehab the building as a boutique hotel,” Tucker said.
It will take a year of planning and at least two years of construction, and Tucker envisioned a possible opening in 2025.
A boutique hotel “meets several definitions,” Tucker said. “It’s a stylish hotel and it’s normally situated in a historic area. The concept is, normally, they have 100 rooms or more. They have very specific personal touches, obviously located in the city center.”
“The plan is to have some retail component to it, some event space to it, rehab the old ballroom, it’s so early in the planning phase, these things could change based off architectural renderings and plans and even things like health-safety components,” he said.
Tucker said he was adding to a list of “action items” Wednesday.
“Having ownership allows you to make the chess moves that you need to make for a project like this,” Tucker said.
Tucker will meet with city and Brownwood Municipal Development District officials. “We will talk about programs that exist for projects like this through the state, city, and county,” Tucker said. “There are local, state and federal incentives for these types of projects. My list of items to tackle is long. There’s a great deal to plan and do.”
The sale’s closing followed a 90-day period of due diligence that included serious inspections and an engineering study on the building, Tucker said.
“We were very pleased with that engineering report as far as how the structure is found currently, the grade of the concrete, the veneer itself is in very good condition," Tucker said.
“You’re going to have to some interior alterations to the structure, so you’ve got to make sure that the concrete and the metal and everything that’s in it will allow for such alterations. We had to do normal things like obtain a survey, order appraisals, etc.”
The total square footage of the building, including the basement, is just over 100,000 square feet, with just over 93,000 square feet that’s usable by the public as it stands, Tucker said.
“Even the rooftop is 6,900 square feet but it’s never been utilized for what we plan on eventually utilizing it for, which is to have a rooftop component to it, an overlook where you could obviously dine, relax, and have a glass or wine or coffee.”
Tucker said one priority will be securing the building and making sure it’s cleaned out and made safe.
“It’s not badly secured right now but there’s a better way to go about it,” Tucker said. “I think it’s been easily accessible for too long. Thankfully nobody’s been hurt.”
Tucker said he’s talked with the city about the need for additional parking in downtown Brownwood.
“One of the thing we’ve broached with the city is, what would it take to create a parking garage?” Tucker said. “That could be an easy solution and in my mind, it would serve not only the hotel but it could serve downtown, the existing coliseum. It could also serve parking for the future event center down the street.”
Tucker said while there is room for a parking garage on the hotel’s parking lot, he’d prefer to work something out for adjacent city-owned lots “where we could create a parking garage that serves not only the hotel but the downtown area.”
History of the Brownwood Hotel 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.
Phelps died in 2010, and Myrna Phelps is listed in Phelps’ obituary as his widow.
'A four-year conversation'
Before Tucker bought the building, Brown County Appraisal District records showed the owner as 200 Fisk LLC. Mail to the entity went to Phelps in Woodbridge, Va. Phelps, has declined to be interviewed by the Bulletin.
Tucker said the purchase of the building was the culmination of “a four-year conversation” with Phelps.
“It was a challenging negotiation,” Tucker said. “I felt like as far as the negotiation side of it, I certainly had met my match on this property and how to create a finalized contract. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing because sometimes these talks take on a life of their own.
“I started a conversation with Myrna in 2017 in my initial queries. I had looked at that property as my first choice of something to tackle in Brownwood and talked at length with the owner, but it became very clear that this was something that was just going to take more time. There were a couple of times I’d given up on whether it was really going to happen or not.”
Tucker said Phelps “had some very specific things that she wanted to see happen. One of those would be in answering the question, ‘what are you going to do with the property?’
“I think I was able to get her to a level of comfort there, because it’s a legacy for her as well. No matter how tenuous the conversation got, I very much respect what she wanted to see happen to the property and that it went to the right group. We had to do some specific language to make the seller comfortable with that.”
Tucker noted that owners of historic buildings have an emotional attachment to the property.
"The one we’re sitting in right now is over 130 yeas old,” Tucker said, referring to Teddy’s Brewhaus, the business Tucker owns.
The building, which is across the street from the Brownwood Hotel, was previously the home of Weakley-Watson Sporting Goods.
“That’s got a lot of history,” Tucker said of the Teddy’s Brewhaus building. “Its past is tied to the town. It’s tied to the town’s economics and history. The same thing could be said for the 1928 hotel across the street.
"The hotel is tied to the town’s growth, going back pre-Depression and through Camp Bowie era. So I think it’s natural for owners of these properties to create an emotional attachment to them. So they want to know, rightfully, what are you going to with it?”
Tucker said the renovation of the Brownwood Hotel will be “one of the largest economic downtown developments in over a century. It’s kind of a big deal, and we are honored to be part of its preservation.”