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2012-06-07

City refutes rumors re Old Town Square

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Bandera has always been a hotbed of rumors. One of the latest presupposes that City of Bandera officials are reluctant to approve construction of a new hotel-motel on the site of the now destroyed Old Town Square.

According to City Administrator Mike Cardenas and Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Schumacher, nothing could be farther from the truth.

A preliminary meeting, held Thursday, May 24, was attended by city officials, developer Al Rajabi and members of an investment team. "During the initial discussion, everything went really well," said Cardenas, who will serve as city contact person for the project. He added, "And, there is no truth to the rumor that we will not issue a demolition permit."

"We are very interested to see a national hotel-motel chain come into Bandera," Schumacher said in an interview. "A familiar chain could only be of benefit to the city and visitors. A new motel in Bandera might convince others to improve their facilities."

Schumacher also noted the Sunday, May 20, fire that destroyed the unoccupied block-long complex on Main Street had actually served as an impetus for the initial discussion.

As she explained, "Even prior to the fire, it was apparent that it would not be economically feasible to salvage the complex, and the fire enabled the city to meet the development team. I would say the fire actually pushed things along somewhat."

Demolition of the destroyed structure must wait until the fire scene is released by the state fire marshal.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation although persons of interest have been identified.

During the preliminary meeting, the developer applied for a demolition permit and told Cardenas informal bids for the work had already been solicited. "We can't issue a demolition permit until investigation into the fire is completed," Cardenas explained.

Additionally, a required asbestos abatement survey has been submitted to the city, which Cardenas turned over to the Texas Department of Health for review. State review of the survey is underway.

Cardenas emphasized, however, city officials have not been given a rendering of the proposed hotel-motel complex. "This project is in a very early stage of development and we've seen no plans yet," Cardenas said. "In fact, I hesitate to even call it 'a project' at this time."

According to information from The Boerne Business Journal, Rajabi of Boerne Hospitality, LTD and PDH Management, LLC owns the new Hampton Inn and Suites, located just off Interstate 10 in Boerne. He graduated from UCLA with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology and a minor in business. Rajabi also served on the Greater Boerne Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

A well-respected member of the Boerne business community, Rajabi managed and owned a former Holiday Inn Express located just off Interstate 10 on Highway 46 in the mid-2000s.

During allocations of the City of Boerne's Hotel Occupancy Tax - the so-called HOT funds - his assistance proved invaluable to city administrators and councilmen.

As closely as possible, Rajabi and his staff tracked their guests' reasons for staying in Boerne and Kendall County. When local nonprofits appeared before council for their share of the HOT funds pie, Rajabi noted with certainty what events brought the most visitors to the area. As he pointed out, annually it was the St. Valentine's Day Motorcycle Rally and the popular Rod Run.

Currently, Rajabi and his associates are working on a new Holiday Inn Express Fredericksburg that is slated to open later this month.

Prior to the developer and investors opening a dialogue with the city, former city councilman Robert Koimn wrote publically on May 2 about the potential re-development of Old Town Square.

In part, Koimn wrote: "It's time to let your elected and appointed officials in all local levels of government know that they need to get behind this project and provide any and-or all the support that is available to them to make this opportunity become a reality for our community."

"Maybe that's where the rumor got started that the city wasn't supporting a new hotel on Main Street," Cardenas said.

According to city officials, they have always supported new - and legitimate - projects that would bring jobs and revenue to the municipality.