Abilene Hotel Grand Opening Consolidates $ 80 Million Project


With a turn of a mound of dirt on a frosty Friday morning, the dream of a downtown convention center hotel has finally found itself on solid ground.

City officials and guests gathered on North Sixth and Cypress Streets to celebrate what many have called a long-standing victory to bring the project to Abilene’s central business district.

About 250 people attended the event hosted by the Abilene Convention Center Hotel Development Corporation, seated under a large tent or ringing it up against the northern breeze. The public was also invited.

The 200-room, 17,000-square-foot DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, which will be located adjacent to the downtown arts and business district, will offer full-service dining, a poolside terrace, an on-site bar. the roof and other amenities.

Construction is expected to take 18 months, with an opening in spring 2023.

DoubleTree by Hilton has 615 hotels, with more than 142,000 rooms in 49 countries and territories.

Make things happen

Former Abilene mayor Norm Archibald, who has long been a passionate promoter of such a project, said after the event that the hotel would serve as a catalyst to hold more conventions and “shake things up” in Abilene.

Archibald noted the continued growth of the city center, including new restaurants and shops, boosted by the plans for the project.

“It’s just going to help the city center to develop,” he said. “I can’t help but think that there will be a lot of other companies saying ‘we have to jump on this train because it is going in the right direction. “”

The concept of the hotel had been discussed on and off for “years and years,” Archibald said, but he never lost faith in the idea. He left in 2017 as mayor.

“I thought a hotel developer would know that this is a good market and that it would be a good investment,” he said. “It took all the right people together at the right time. But it happened, and it happened today.”

Following: Inauguration of a city center hotel, council meeting scheduled for this week

Following: Abilene City Council approves funding for downtown hotel

Following: What the Abilene Reporter-News Liked and Disliked: Big Week in the City

From the start, legislation was key

The $ 80 million project is funded by a public-private partnership, including approved state-level legislation to allow Abilene to reinvest local and national hotel occupancy tax collected at the property.

These efforts were led by State Representative Stan Lambert and State Senator Dawn Buckingham in 2017. Still at work in Austin, neither were able to attend.

The legislation, House Bill 2455, provides for a refund of state sales tax generated by the property for 10 years.

In a statement prepared for the event, Lambert called the revenue stream “vital to the city’s approved financial package for hotel development,” and said the project would serve as an “economic cornerstone” for Abilene.

In her own statement, she predicted that the structure would help downtown Abilene continue on a path of “remarkable revitalization.”

Long term goals

Adding housing to the downtown Abilene development mix has been a long-standing goal, officials said.

And the grand opening represented more than three decades of work, Mayor Anthony Williams told the crowd.

This labor began with the rebirth of “key historical landmarks, cultural venues and meeting, entertainment, dining and retail spaces”, closely followed by residential opportunities, according to a statement from the hotel development company.

The project, Williams said, represents an opportunity for “Abilene to focus on ways to move this community forward.”

In the mid-1980s, the city center was in “disarray,” he said.

It took investment, not just monetary, but time and energy, he said, “to get us to be at this precise moment.”

“Today we celebrate that and continue their work for an even better Abilene,” said Williams, calling the hotel “a giant victory for the Abilene of tomorrow”.

Pay the bills

The Hotel Development Corporation has contracted with Garfield Public / Private LLC, based in Dallas, for the development, design and construction of the property.

The local government company will raise funds through the issuance of senior and senior hotel income bonds.

Dallas-based Texas-based DPR Construction won the design / build agreement for the project.

The city part of the project consists of public convention center facilities, including conference and meeting rooms, ballrooms and related infrastructure and parking connected and integrated with the hotel.

Funding for the project includes a $ 15 million donation from the Abilene Improvement Corporation, provided by anonymous donors.

Its total cost is a substantial increase from the roughly $ 66.7 million issued before the pandemic.

In June, Williams said the increase was “mainly due to the increase (in the cost) of building materials.”

Tourism in the spotlight

Economic development and tourism data from 2020 showed travelers brought $ 416.3 million in direct spending to Abilene businesses, according to the Abilene Convention and Tourism Bureau, citing statistics from the bureau. of the governor.

The travel industry has supported approximately 3,600 jobs and provides $ 40 million in taxes to local, county and state governments.

Nanci Liles, Executive Director of ACVB, led the groundbreaking event with a prayer, asking for blessings on those who brought the project to fruition, those who would build it – and those who helped fund it.

“This building is much more than a hotel,” said Liles. “It is a foundation, a foundation for creating new relationships, establishing new partnerships and welcoming new friends to our community.”

Liles, who recently announced plans for her retirement, said after the ceremony that two new conventions had already been drawn to the community because of the project.

“I really believed this was something that had to happen for a long, long time,” she said. “Without a shadow of a doubt, it will succeed.”

Abilene City Manager Robert Hanna, paraphrasing the scriptures, said the people gathered were helping to build “a community to come.”

Referring to the book “The Gift of Community” by former Abilene Mayor Gary McCaleb, Hanna said that “we can budget for big steel and concrete structures, but no one can buy from the community.”

“This can only be achieved through people who care enough about themselves to dedicate themselves to this very special cause,” he said.

Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for Abilene Reporter-News. If you value local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.

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