PLAINVIEW, TX (KCBD) - The spiritual center of Plainview was for years the intersection of Broadway and 5th Street in downtown. There you can find the Hale County Courthouse, paved brick streets that lead to the city’s Santa Fe train station, and once-flourishing buildings that in the past housed department stores and movie theaters.
Many of those buildings have sat vacant for years, or have been repurposed for various uses including houses of worship, karate studios and the county’s tax office.
A block away is the corner of 6th and Austin. There you will find the former Hale County State Bank headquarters and one of Conrad Hilton’s first hotels.
The bank building was recently gifted to the city by Centennial Bank, HCSB’s successor. And as of Wednesday, new life is being breathed into the hotel that sat vacant for much of the last half century.
Many of the attendees for Wednesday’s dedication ceremony for the new Conrad Lofts remembered the hotel being open. A number of them shared stories of sitting in the hotel’s ornate but still tasteful ballroom on the second floor. But none of them could remember exactly when it closed, only that it did some time that the bottom dropped out of the West Texas economy in the 1980s.
That closure left a mark on downtown Plainview that could be felt for years. The one bright spot could be said that the derelict buildings of downtown became the perfect setting for the 1992 motion picture ‘Leap of Faith’ starring Steve Martin, Deborah Winger and Liam Neeson.
A few years ago things began to change. A drive through the town helped fuel that change.
Jake Mooney, the co-owner of Kansas City’s MRE Capital is in the business of redeveloping older buildings into affordable housing. His general contractor on another project lives in Amarillo and came across the former Hilton on his way south. “He drove through Plainview and saw the big building and said ‘this would be right up your guys’ alley.’”
And it was. That’s when development moved into high gear. “These developments take an entire city, and sometimes state, to get approval... these things take about three years from first talking with the city council until days like today.”
Mooney said the hotel was in better shape than some other projects he’d worked on. The nearly 90-year-old structure still had 'good bones’ despite at least 30 years of vacancy. “Some times when a building sits vacant this long, there really isn’t anything you can do."
Much of MRE’s time was spent restoring the lobby, mezzanine and ballroom. something that proved challenging early on, “The whole lobby didn’t even have a second story, they’d already filled it in when we got here.”
“We’ve been looking forward to this for 30 years,” Mayor Wendell Dunlap told the gathered crowd on Wednesday. “It’s been a long time.... If there’s anything that can be a game changer for downtown Plainview, it’s this one building."
That building, featuring 6 floors of apartments, is already 50 percent leased, with move-in set for as soon as Thursday. With response like that, the game will certainly have changed once Plainview’s new city facilities open in the former bank across that intersection in a few years.
All in the name of revitalization, even if it’s an intersection at a time.