A downtown redevelopment study will not be completed until permits are acquired by developers of the Ophelia Hotel-Conference Center near Lakeside Park in Marble Falls. Groundbreaking is expected in July 2024. Staff photo by Nathan Bush
Funding for half of a $138,000 downtown redevelopment study was approved 6-1 by the Marble Falls City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 16, with the caveat that the study may not proceed until permits are issued for the Ophelia Hotel-Conference Center near Lakeside Park.
Funding for the other half of the agreement was unanimously approved by the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp. Board of Directors on Dec. 6.
The study, conducted by planning consulting firm Stantec, will look at downtown properties owned by the city and the EDC to determine the best spot for a new City Hall. The study will also help plan for potential uses of other city- and EDC-owned properties downtown that could create public-private partnerships.
“We have several parcels of land within the downtown district that could be reimagined in a multitude of different ways,” said Lacey Dingman, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and project manager for the new City Hall. “We’ve heard several different opinions from the staff level and from the (council) on what they’d like to see happen to these properties. We feel like the best decision, at this point, would be to have an outside consultant give us their analysis on the best way to proceed.”
Mayor Pro-tem Dee Haddock, who also serves on the EDC board, shared his reservations about his prior vote to approve the study in December 2023, although he voted for it again Tuesday.
“When this was presented, I voted for approval, and I’ve had some time to think about it since,” he said. “We have so many projects that are going on right now — wastewater (plant), hotel-conference center, and other things. I’m not sure now is the right time. I’m not opposed to the concept, I’m just not sure right now is the correct timing.”
Councilor Bryan Walker was the only council member to vote against the item.
“I would rather see that item come through in next year’s budget or as a mid-year budget amendment,” he told DailyTrib.com. “I don’t really like pulling $70,000 out of reserve funds for a planning session.”
City officials identified the conference center as an “anchor” for future downtown Marble Falls. Conversations about it have been ongoing for about a decade.
“It’s been 10 years, so I’m a little trigger shy,” Mayor Dave Rhodes said. “It’s going to happen, barring some big revelation, but I just don’t want to be premature.”
Stantec representative Sean Garretson contended the council’s trepidation was unnecessary given the hotel-conference center’s location.
EDC Executive Director Christian Fletcher agreed with Garretson’s assessment.
“I think the timing is kind of immaterial,” he said. “Sean made a good point that it’s going to be that type of use. We have all the confidence in the world that is what the ultimate outcome will be.”
Groundbreaking for the hotel-conference center is expected to begin in July, Fletcher said at the meeting.