For years it seemed any attempt to restore the Baker was nothing more than a apparitional fantasy. But Southlake businessman Laird Fairchild of Hunter Chase Capital Partners thinks differently.
Six years ago, he embarked on a quest to revive the once proud Baker and, unlike proposals from other suitors in the recent past, Fairchild has a concrete vision and is now closer than ever to pulling the trigger on the project.
“We’re making good progress right now,” Fairchild told the Index. “Ideally we’d like to be able to start work within the next nine to 12 months.”
Fairchild first noticed the Baker on his way to a hunting trip at the Rhodes Ranch, which he has leased for 12 years. He made it his mission to restore the hotel, not only for the hotel’s sake and its financial potential, but for the entire Mineral Wells community.
“It just calls you. You drive by and it beckons you,” he said. “You can tell that a renovation would have a huge impact on [Mineral Wells]. From my background in specialized real estate, I knew that there were some programs out there for buildings such as that and towns such as Mineral Wells. I think it’s almost like my responsibility, knowing that town as well as I do and knowing some of those programs that were out there that could help benefit that building, that I needed to take a stab at it.”
Fairchild is currently in the process of gathering investors for the project, having made many positive contacts with both individual and group investors so far. He has assembled a virtual dream team of project partners from the Dallas and Austin area who are dedicated to restoring the Baker to its original art-deco glory and making it a viable, money-making business again.
City Manager Lance Howerton is particularly optimistic about the project.
“From what I have seen, this has been the best progress that has been made on this project, to date,” he said. “We’re very encouraged at this point that there are some very substantial groups looking at the project.
They appear to have significant levels of interest and that’s extremely encouraging. Typically the people that are looking at these types of projects don’t waste their time getting detailed information about a project unless they have a pretty good level of interest.”
Key to the Baker project is the acquisition of federal and state historic tax credits – the latter of which were just passed in the Texas Legislature. Fairchild explained that both types of tax credits will give back a combined 45 cents for every dollar invested in the project. These credits can then go out into the market and be sold, to ensure cash flow.
In order to qualify for these credits, the project has to adhere to strict guidelines and must restore the Baker – a nationally registered historic building – as closely as possible to its original state when it first opened in 1929. For this reason, the new Baker will appear like a time capsule, harkening back to its full, original glory, with the exception of a few modern amenities.
Those involved in the project are confident that the restored Baker Hotel will have no difficulty attracting guests and making money, according to Fairchild. The tax credits are a big part of that equation. Howerton, too, believes in the project’s viability.
Fairchild said the renovation will be a long process – with cleanup and abatement, alone, lasting nine months to a year and the construction lasting about two years. Once underway, the process will benefit Mineral Wells significantly, generating a whole new crop of local jobs.
With every day that passes, Fairchild grows closer to making his dream, and the collective dream of Mineral Wells, a reality. He is only about $25 million short of reaching the estimated $55 million needed for the project and is quickly discovering just how important the task he has undertaken is.
“I can’t tell you the number of phone calls, emails and Facebook posts I get about the hotel and people already wanting to reserve rooms,” he said.
“Obviously the hotel has an incredible following. I’m very excited.”