Wednesday, July 17, 2024

A new chapter in tourism: City acquires Granbury Square Plaza for historic preservation, economic growth

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As of a couple of weeks ago, Granbury Square Plaza is officially under new ownership.

City Manager Chris Coffman recently confirmed to the Hood County News that Granbury Historic Properties closed on the purchase of the building June 25.

Granbury Historic Properties is a subcomponent of the city for historic preservation. According to Coffman, GHP also owns Granbury Opera House and the Granbury Doll House Museum.

"It was kind of like a three-legged stool of why we bought it,” Coffman explained. “Historic preservation (is one). It’s the front door to our historic square and it’s an old building that needs to be preserved.”

Granbury Square Plaza first held its grand opening celebration in 2009 in the former First United Methodist Church building. Located at 201 E. Pearl St., the plaza became an iconic location on the Historic Granbury Square.

“We didn’t try to reinvent the building,” Developer Ken Hackett told the HCN in 2009. “Instead, we’re adapting it for a new use.”

The new use included space for 20 to 25 businesses, from 200 square feet and up. A 1,700-square-foot second floor meeting room also overlooked the square.

For more than a decade, the plaza has served the community by providing retail and office space for businesses, as well as an outdoor area for events like weddings, birthday parties, bands and other intimate gatherings.

Under the ownership of Hackett — who was also the former president of the Historic Granbury Merchants Association — the building was recently foreclosed. It was later confirmed by current HGMA President Cheshe Langford June 11 that the organization will continue to operate out of the plaza, but that a transition will soon be taking place.

“It's going to belong to somebody else next week, so we don't know exactly what that entails really, but we have a lease through the end of December 2025, so we're kind of stuck in that right now,” Langford previously said. “But we're going to try to maintain that office."

A member of the HGMA also asked Langford if the building was then owned by the city. She said, “Not yet, but soon.”

As a major historical landmark was suddenly left with no owner, the city immediately sprang into action to acquire the property.

Coffman explained that through the city’s purchase, the plaza will continue to contribute major economic development benefits to the city. Additionally, the success of Visit Granbury largely depends upon the visitor center remaining at its current home.

"Visit Granbury’s there and they're our shining marketing tool for the city. We want to keep them front and center," Coffman said. “The building's pretty much rented right now, but as tenants churn through, there's a need for temporary office space for these companies that we're trying to attract to come to town to create jobs. They need temporary office space until they are able to get their building built.”

Even with the change of ownership, Coffman said the leases are still viable, but he intends to keep the cash flow coming to help with finances.

"I showed the building last week to a company that's considering building here that's going to create jobs, and they need office space for their (certified public accountant) quickly, so we may have somebody moving in on that soon,” he said. “But it's mostly rented; it's about 75% occupied, so the cash flow pays its way right now.”

Coffman said the goal is to turn the plaza into a “shining star” — something that attracts tourists to Granbury when they first pull into town and see it.

"It's really in a demise condition right now,” he said. “We're working to repair the air conditioning, the roofing, the painting, and some structural woodwork needs to be taken care of on that old plaza area itself, where the wood’s rotted. It doesn‘t give us a good look, so we want to clean it up and make it really attractive.”

So far, city crews have landscaped the area to make it appealing for the Fourth of July — but Coffman said the city has a “long way to go” to restore the plaza back to its pristine condition.

"We're trying to save the building at the same time as keep the occupancy,” he added.

As far as future plans, Coffman said the city has talked about potentially expanding the current parking lot and has also envisioned creating an economic development incubator system to help provide resources and services to new and growing businesses.

“There would be workspace available for new startup businesses through grants and other things to help fund that to get them up and going,” he said. “We don't have the vacancy yet to start that incubator program yet, but that's kind of what we're doing.”

For more information about Granbury Square Plaza or for booking details, go online to VisitGranbury.com.