When a press conference was held last month on the steps of the allegedly haunted Baker Hotel to announce that the historic structure would be refurbished and reopened as a premier destination for weddings, retreats, weekend getaways, and corporate events, the revelation was almost anticlimactic for residents of Mineral Wells.
“We’re excited, but we weren’t waiting on it anymore,” said Rose Jordan, the chamber’s director of tourism and marketing.
Townspeople took matters into their own hands after waiting a decade in hopes of the project getting off the ground but only to see those hopes dashed time and again. If no one else was going to invest in them, they would invest in themselves. They received help in doing so from Gov. Greg Abbott, who designated most of downtown as an Opportunity Zone. Created through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones offer tax advantages to certain investments in lower-income areas.
Locals stepped up to invest in new downtown businesses such as The Market at 76067, a 12,000-square-foot building showcasing the wares of 100 vendors, many of them local. Adjoining the marketplace is a fresh flower shop and a coffee-and-cocktails bar and eatery. There is also the Brazos Market and Bistro and the Hole in the Wall Grill & Bier Garten. The seven-story Crazy Water Hotel is slated for renovation, according to Jordan, and plans include event and convention space as well as a restaurant, brewery, gym, retail shops, and apartments. An urban park also is in the works.
Because of the city’s success in yanking its own bootstraps, Mineral Wells has become a case study for other cities as well as the Texas Downtown Association, the tourism director said, adding that much of the downtown area’s rebirth occurred during a 12-month period. When news broke about the Baker, it was “the cherry on top” of an already baked cake, he said.
The Baker Hotel and Spa is slated for a 2022 grand opening, providing hundreds of jobs to the community, Jordan said. The $65-million restoration is the largest in Texas history of a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The governor’s Opportunity Zone designation “was the linchpin that helped pull all this together and make this long-term investment possible,” said Chad Patton of Wells Fargo Advisors, one of the Baker’s seven new owners.
Jordan said that for years discouraged townspeople opined that the Baker would be restored “when pigs fly.” After the investment group closed the deal last month, a pig statue with wings appeared at one of the new downtown businesses, she said, and locals have been signing their names on it.
“You can’t get your arms around the guy,” she laughed, referring to the effigy’s wingspan.