In the four decades the Baker Hotel has been closed, many have dreamed about restoring and reopening the grand lady with visions of bringing back what used to be for the city.
We even got excited at times because a group here or an individual there actually came up with a proposal. But each time, optimism and hopes were dashed. The project was just too massive in scope and cost for most to undertake.
Over the last few years, our hopes again rose when we learned of a team of developers from the Metroplex who were looking for a project just like the Baker Hotel and fell in love with the building. Surely, we thought, we shouldn’t get our hopes up again only to once again be led to the trough of disappointment. We have tasted that water before. We thought, “This will surely be another failed attempt, but thanks for trying.”
Now, here we stand. Beginning Monday, the people of Mineral Wells can cast a ballot to approve or deny the last piece of funding – $4 million – needed for the projected $56 million renovation project. The other funding sources have been identified. Those monies are not secured or guaranteed at this point. But “the pieces of the puzzle,” as City Manager Lance Howerton says, are identified.
The people of Mineral Wells hold one of those puzzle pieces. An important piece. In fact, should the May 10 proposition authorizing the creation of a 4B Economic Development Corporation that would dedicate one-eighth of a cent of the city’s 1.5-cent sales tax levy to an economic development fund fail, the Baker Hotel project likely fails with it.
This is the moment we have waited a long time for, and now it is upon us. Is there some financial risk to the city and people? One could argue anytime you borrow large amounts of money there exists a risk in the ability to repay. But keep in mind the repayment of the loan comes solely from the reallocation of a portion of sales tax revenue, no other city revenue source. Not property taxes. If approved, the city would start the reallocation this fall, collecting those funds generated by the one-eighth cent and placing them in the separate fund for possibly a year or longer before the city would be asked to provide its $4 million contribution to the project.