Planning phase continues for Brownwood Hotel renovation
Six weeks after the sale of the former Brownwood Hotel to Historic Brownwood Texas Hotel LLC, nothing that's visible to the public has changed at the vacant 12-story building at Fisk and Baker.
Behind the scenes, there is plenty going on as developer Jeff Tucker and partner Porfirio Duban -- who comprise Historic Brownwood Texas Hotel LLC -- prepare to bring new life to the 91-year-old building.
“At this point we’re still in the planning phase," Tucker said as he gave an update on the project. "We’ve got probably a year’s worth of planning to do before we start construction. We turned in our projected numbers to the city on the project. I know that they’ve just now introduced this to the (Brownwood Municipal Development District) board."
Tucker said in an earlier interview the project will be a "historic preservation" and the building will be rehabbed as boutique hotel. After a year of planning and at least two years of construction, Tucker envisioned a possible opening in 2025.
The Brownwood Municipal Development District (BMDD) board discussed the project in executive session Tuesday but took no action related to economic incentives.
"I think a lot of what Ray Tipton presented to the board is more along the lines an update on the hotel," Tucker said, referring to BMDD's executive director. "We’re projecting number of rooms, we’re projecting an average daily rate for the rooms, we’re projecting employment, hotel numbers for employees, things of that nature.”
Tucker said those numbers are needed in order for the hotel project to be granted incentives. "This is a partnership with the city, make no mistake about it," Tucker said.
Tipton agreed, and said the purpose of Tuesday's executive session was to "introduce the project officially to the BMDD board and provide them with the initial information that Jeff has provided us, and we anticipate doing that with city council as well. I think it will be on the agenda for next city council meeting to basically do the same thing.”
The City of Brownwood has hired David Pettit Economic Development LLC as a consultant. The Fort Worth firm specializes in partnerships between the public and private sector.
The Pettit group is bringing “a level of expertise on assessing the plans and information that Jeff’s providing us, so we can make better decisions on what our participation’s going to look like – related to the BMDD and the city," Tipton said.
After the BMDD and the city are introduced to the project and get a status report, another meeting will be held with the Pettit group, Tipton said.
"I anticipate we’ll need some additional information from Jeff and his group as they firm up their plans a little bit more," Tipton said. "That will go into any decision making we go in the city and MDD side of it.
"We’ll do some economic development impact analysis and we'll be using the Pettit group for some of that as well. Since it’s such an important project for Brownwood and such a large project, we just want as many sets of eyes on it as possible so we don’t miss something on our end. We’re providing as many resources to Jeff and his group as we can and make sure we get a good end product for the committee."
Tucker said, "I’m real happy the city has engaged with the Pettit group. I’ve spoken with them as well. This is what they do, this is what their sole focus is -- to help cities to look at how best to approach a renovation like this and what can be done to help a project happen.
"If there are state or local or federal incentives, they’ll help them garner what that looks like. What’s going to be hard for some people to get their heads around is just the enormity of this project, the size of it. And the cost of it."
Tucker said he has made several trips to Mineral Wells, where the Baker Hotel is being restored, and met with Brownwood native Mark Rawlings, who is spearheading the restoration.
"We’ve learned a great deal from him about their approaches, because the hotels were designed by the same company and in the same time period," Tucker said. "We’ve learned a lot from them about how they approached the property and cost, and things of that nature. They’re way past demolition and they’re now into the real construction phase.
"Getting that kind of help from them as a consultant has been really important. I can’t think him enough.”
Tucker also said he's spoken with Jeff Trigger, president of La Corsha Hospitality. “He’ll help us look at how to reprogram that building, and the best approaches for things like egress and exit and how to use the lobby, and maybe how many rooms to really try to garner out of it," Tucker said.
Tucker said the City of Brownwood released the fines and liens the city had placed on the building because of code violations prior to the sale to Brownwood Hotel to Historic Brownwood Texas Hotel LLC.
“Before we were closing, we had reached out to Emily Crawford, the city manager and discussed with her how best to handle the fines and the liens that were on the property because of lack of cooperation with the previous owner," Tucker said. "We just didn’t want to get left with a bunch of fines and liens that we didn’t encumber.
"We worked out an agreement that if we were to purchase the hotel and show them what our intents were for reconstruction, they would release the fines and liens in order to see the hotel happen. It’s a very great step forward with the city to have that occur. We’re really appreciative of it. It saved us close to about $50,000 before closing. It was a very nice incentive to not have to worry about paying somebody else’s fines. And it also shows that the city is wanting to work hand in hand with us as we try to bring this thing out.”
When asked about the next steps in the renovation, Tucker said, “I think what happens right now is that conversations need to occur with the city, the MDD, the Pettit group. They’re going to continue some conversations with them to help us figure out best approaches.
"One of the things the Pettit group will do is allow the city not to miss anything. Hiring a consultant like that for a project of this size is really important."