Marble Falls set to OK $6.5M bond for hotel/conference center


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CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

Concept plans for a potential new conference center and hotel along Lake Marble Falls. Courtesy illustrations
Concept plans for a potential new conference center and hotel along Lake Marble Falls. Courtesy illustration

MARBLE FALLS — A hotel/conference center to be located adjacent to Lakeside Park is expected to get its first monetary boost toward construction in the form of a $6.5 million bond, according to Marble Falls officials.

On Sept. 20, in a joint meeting with the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp., the city council is scheduled to approve the issuance of the bonds as recommended by the EDC.

“It has the potential to be a substantial jobs generator,” EDC Executive Director Christian Fletcher said of the public-private partnership.

The project’s total cost is estimated to be between $27 million and $28 million, and the EDC bonds will encompass a portion of the money to be invested by the privately owned Georgetown-based Novak Cobalt Partners.

“The EDC’s component of (the project’s cost) is a little less than 25 percent,” Fletcher said. “Our development partners have been working on bringing outside capital to the table, both equity sources as well as their own debt capital to do the project.”

Funds should be made available on an incremental basis by mid-October and will be tied to progress on the project.

“The EDC’s investment will be through a performance agreement where they commit to constructing a conference center and hotel to our standards, hiring a certain number of people and tying into the public realm improvements that we have planned for the parks,” Fletcher said. “We have a placeholder tied to jobs, but it will be at least 50, and that will be a combination of sales jobs, management and hospitality jobs; (it) does not include food service.”

When the EDC board approved authorizing the bonds on Aug. 3, officials approved the city staff proceeding with the financing plan for the hotel/conference center.

Bond funds will help pay for convention facilities, parking, public realm improvements, tourists facilities and restaurant concessions on the property acquired by the EDC in 2014.

“The funding source for those bonds will be EDC revenue, which is sales tax (that) has no impact on property tax or utility rates,” Fletcher said.

As the hotel/conference center construction gets underway, EDC and parks and recreation officials plan to work together to launch new interconnected amenities linked to existing park space.

“What we would want to do is to time the first phase of improvements. Part of the structure of all this is when we charge a ground-lease payment and performance rent to the hotel and conference center, that revenue is going to help us pay for those public realm improvements,” he said. “We’re finding out ways to generate capital in order to do the trail system and the board walk.”

Infrastructure cost, which typically falls within the funding responsibility of the city, will rely on EDC funding mechanisms.

“When we know that there will be infrastructure upgrades that have to take place there in terms of a waterline or replacing a waterline, that will be on the EDC not the city,” Fletcher said.

Residents can expect some changes to infrastructure, including one nearby partial road closure and waterway access.

“The only amenity that will need to change for our project is the relocation of the boat ramp (in Lakeside Park),” he said. “We’re in the process of reacquiring that property from (the Texas Department of Transportation), but there’s an agreement in place that mandates we place that boat ramp somewhere else.”

Annual events such as Walkway of Lights could possibly acquire more space, while other events such as the LakeFest drag-boat races might need to reconfigure how racers get onto the lake.

An operator for the hotel, a potential well-known chain, is expected to be named in about two weeks.

Officials estimate an April 2017 groundbreaking.

connie@thepicayune.com