CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — There may be new life for the 1914 Nueces County courthouse, following the failure of a couple of deals within the past year to sell the historic building.
In May 2018, the county agreed to sell the building to a developer that planned to transform it into a boutique hotel. However, the deal was terminated just three months later when that developer failed to pay more than $1.5 million dollars in property back taxes.
In March of this year, county commissioners rejected a bid from the Ed Rachal Foundation to buy the building and demolish it. Around the same time, the Texas Historical Commission agreed to conduct a new feasibility study to explore hotel use at no cost to the county.
County commissioners heard the results of the study during their meeting on Wednesday. The proposal projects a $68 million cost for a boutique hotel. It would include 173 guest rooms, meeting and event space, along with other amenities including a restaurant and bar. The study also includes a detailed budget and floorplans.
"We've always looked at it from an RFP (request for proposal), 'We want to sell this' side with only one parameter -- a price. Now for the first time, we can approach a developer and we've almost done the vetting for them," Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales said.
Another detail outlined in the study is the potential tax incentives available to interested developers. As Canales explained, ""Fifty percent of the cost estimate would be deferred by tax incentives so really the overall cost is approximately $29 million...which is an outstanding ratio."
The study also accounts for $4 million in additional incentives from the city. That was the amount approved last year during negotiations with the prior developer, Nueces County Development Partners, LLC. With the city's current focus on downtown revitalization, the commission believes the timing is also right for this kind of project.
"We can either sit here for seven years and wait to tear it down and save some money to tear it down, or do something and be proactive," commissioner Carolyn Vaughn commented. "And I think that's what we're doing so I'm looking forward to us moving forward."
Vaughn referred to an agreement with the Texas Historical Commission that prevents the county from tearing down the old courthouse until 2027. Nueces County previously asked the commission and state lawmakers to be released from the covenant, but those efforts were unsuccessful.
One of the recommendations from the study was an updated structural assessment of the old courthouse. The county already has a federal grant to pay for that. Canales hopes to complete it by the end of the year.