CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
BURNET — City officials have temporarily halted renovations of the historic Badger building after investors in a winery venture backed out of a partnership with the Burnet Economic Development Corp.
The EDC has earmarked $1.2 million toward renovating the inside of the structure, 229 S. Pierce St., as well as three adjacent buildings, in part, to coax the winemaking industry downtown.
Officials had spent about $175,000 in purchasing adjacent property and asbestos remediation when the San Saba-based Wedding Oak Winery nixed the potential deal to lease the space.
The EDC plans would include upgrades and renovations to the building; however, a private partner would need to fund changes to the inside of the structure to serve its specific business purposes.
“(Wedding Oak) did not want to take on additional debt associated with expansion of their business,” said City Manager David Vaughn, who also serves on the board of the Burnet EDC.
“They started as a small winery operating in San Saba, and they’ve expanded that business significantly, and they’re looking at other opportunities that don’t require capital outlay,” he added. “There was a number of partners who thought their business wasn’t designed to take on that level of debt.”
EDC officials will consider potential options that include a “design-build” strategy in which the EDC would build and lease the structure. Another option would involve “incentivizing ownership” in which a partner could opt for a purchase option.
“We’re in the process of developing a marketing strategy to go out and recruit a top winery in the area,” Vaughn said.
Despite severing ties with Wedding Oak, city officials believe the project remains prime for a future partner.
“That’s not to say we wouldn’t look at other opportunities or other options for that, but we strongly believe in what that can do for the downtown area,” Vaughn said. “We’re certainly in a position where we can afford to be aggressive from an incentives perspective.”
The goal remains to shift the economic focus on the downtown courthouse square to jumpstart new industry.
“Where the downtown has been historically has been going towards professional (office space), we’re hoping to bring a business in that could help boost the retail side of things and bring a draw to downtown to support the retail industry,” he said.