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Marble Falls hotel-conference center breaking ground by June 2024

Ophelia Hotel-Conference Center site in Marble Falls

The Marble Falls EDC plans to break ground on the Ophelia Hotel-Conference Center on a lot near Lakeside Park by June 2024. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

The Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. on Nov. 1 approved contract amendments to its agreements with its partners for the Ophelia Hotel-Conference Center. Officials expect to break ground on the estimated $42 million project by June 2024.

The amendments added a loan to the incentive package to match current cost estimates and increased lease payments to offset changes in interest rates since starting the project. 

“We started at 4.5 percent interest rates in the beginning, and now we’re at 9 percent,” EDC Executive Director Christian Fletcher told DailyTrib.com. “There’s a lot of additional interest carrying that we wanted to help offset to stabilize the project in its early years.”

Marble Falls city officials approved a $5.5 million bond for the project in 2016. The EDC appeared set to begin discussions on construction timelines in early 2020. 

A worldwide pandemic complicated things.

“We were teed up and ready to go, going into March of 2020,” Fletcher said. “For justified reasons, our partners wanted to pump the brakes.”

The decision proved to be a costly one as the initial $36 million estimate ballooned to roughly $54 million due to spikes in the cost of construction materials and post-pandemic inflation.

“We just couldn’t justify (the price),” Fletcher said. “We were ready to pull the trigger and then construction costs exploded.” 

Sub-contractors being tied up on large projects like the Samsung and Tesla plants east of Austin also increased the price, Fletcher said.

“Having two gargantuan projects under construction at the same time was a drain on all sub-contractors in steel, concrete, glass, any number of fields,” he said. “It basically monopolized that whole labor force for the entire region.”

The EDC is now working with an architect on how to bring down the cost. Fletcher anticipates a revised plan will result in a modest redesign of the hotel-conference center. 

“The structural design of the building was very, very complex,” he said. “There were a lot of things that were adding a lot of costs. A lot of that can be sorted out through additional site work.”

Fletcher said the structure will complement other buildings in Marble Falls.

“It will still be very attractive,” he said. “There will be a lot of brick and it will feel architecturally like it belongs in downtown Marble Falls. It’s not going to be a glass, steel skyscraper or anything like that.”

The reimagined plan will have little impact on the building’s interior. Those blueprints include roughly 100-125 rooms, over 12,000 square-feet of meeting space, a full-service restaurant, and a bar. The hotel will also have an outdoor pool.

“Everybody was thrilled with the interior design package on the first design and nobody wanted to lose that,” Fletcher said.

The Ophelia Hotel-Conference Center, named after Marble Falls Mayor Ophelia “Birdie” Harwood, the first woman mayor in Texas, will be a boutique hotel under the Tapestry Collection by Hilton. 

nathan@thepicayune.com