By TYLER MASK
Thursday's Noon Lions Club hosted a special guest speaker who talked about Mineral Wells' biggest “child” – 187 feet tall – and the hope for seeing it “reborn.”
The start of the newest Baker Hotel project began nearly six years ago. Mineral Wells Mayor Mike Allen has been in office since 2008, so Allen has been along for the entire ride.
“My personal feeling is that this is the last 'hoorah,'” Allen said. “If it takes six years to get somebody to get the financing, and we do another six years, it's deteriorating too fast. So we can spend $4 million to go with it (referring to the 4B sales tax reallocation and potential future bonds) or we can spend $6 million to tear it down and have a hole in the ground.”
Allen kicked off his presentation by speaking about the current project's history.
The vision for a new Baker began with Laird Fairchild, Allen said, who works for Hunter Chase Private Equity. The Baker caught Fairchild's eye on his way through town, headed towards a hunting lease. Fairchild saw something in the Baker.
Soon after, Chad Patton, one of Fairchild's friends who works for Merrill Lynch, hopped on board.
Once the buzz began around town, Allen and others met with the Baker's owner and took him through the 14-story giant to show him just how much the Baker had deteriorated. Two months later, the city struck a deal with the owner that they would be the sole agent representing the Baker. And the rest is history.
The Baker Restoration Team is now complete, all the finances are in place, but one thing remains: 4B Sales Tax reallocation.
The 4B Sales Tax is a reallocation of one-eighth of a cent of sales tax dollars, Allen said, not a bond or an increase in taxes. Each eighth of a cent would be put into an economic development fund, which would turn into nearly $300,000 per year that wouldn't go into the general fund.