Posted on Aug 13, 2018

(This story provided courtesy of the Mineral Wells Index.)

While some talked and others balked, Randy and Misty Nix went to work, putting their money and their hearts into rebuilding and revitalizing downtown Mineral Wells. They are pictured above with Mineral Wells Rotary Club President JJ Dugan.

Those who work in or recently visited or driven through the city’s central business district have seen the immediate uplift through the Nixes’ acquisition of buildings that are being transformed, restored, refurbished and – more importantly – occupied or soon-to-be occupied with new businesses.

Call them Crazy Town’s Renaissance Couple.

Nix on Wednesday told Mineral Wells Rotarians and guests who packed a Holiday Hills Country Club meeting room that he was “late to the party” when it came to the vision and effort to breathe new life into downtown that was slowly dying while waiting for the long-anticipated Baker Hotel project before anyone would commit to making investments and improvements.

It was through his NSC Properties assistant Kelli Buschow, a Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce director, that he learned his vision for downtown had already been outlined in a study performed several years ago by the University of Texas-Arlington and then again through Envision Mineral Wells.

“I realize this is going to be like preaching to the choir,” Nix told the Rotarians. “I am the one who was late to the party. All I am doing is riding the coattails of what you in the room have done. You have a believer.”

Nix realized the town couldn’t continue to see if and when the Baker Hotel renovation project began. He believed creating a thriving, destination-oriented downtown would make the Baker project more attractive to investors. Even if the Baker redo doesn’t happen, downtown Mineral Wells is well on its way to becoming a new center of commerce and activity.

Crazy Water Hotel

But the Nixes aren’t the only ones committing to and reinvesting in downtown. A group of 10 “like-minded” local investors formed a public benefit corporation and created the Crazy Water Hotel PBC Inc. group, acquiring the historic North Oak Avenue hotel property that has been shuttered for half a decade.

Along with a downtown park and greenscape, the six-story hotel property is a kingpin in the Nixes’ downtown revitalization plan.

“Local investors are going to bring this back,” Nix said. “You have 10 local investors that have a common goal of seeing this hotel revitalized and doing a community service project. That means these people all came together knowing that they are going to drive this project for the community, not necessarily for the profits. So the decisions that they make, now and for the long-term, will be for what is best for this community.”

Public benefit corporations are new in Texas, becoming law last September after authorization by the Texas Legislature. It allows for social entrepreneurship among investors who put social or community benefits ahead of return on investment. PBCs otherwise are formed and operate similar to for-profit corporations and investment groups.

A PBC is geared toward providing a public benefit in a responsible and sustainable manner. Public benefit is identified as having “a positive effect, or a reduction of a negative effect, on one or more categories of persons, entities, communities or interests, other than shareholders in their capacities as shareholders, including effects of an artistic, charitable, cultural, economic, educational, environmental, literary, medical, religious, scientific, or technological nature.”

Nix said eventually more investors will be invited to join in the Crazy Water Hotel venture.

At one time a group was reportedly looking at acquiring the property and applying for tax credits to reopen it for low-income apartments. Nix acted quickly and stepped in to purchase the hotel and formulate his vision of more moderate to higher-end downtown residential living space combined with some hotel use anchored by a restaurant and other businesses. He is in talks with a Fort Worth brewery to be one of those first-floor anchors.

The Crazy Water Hotel was rebuilt in 1927 with 200 rooms, a large lobby and pavilion, ballroom, meeting rooms and rooftop patio.

“You could do low-income housing, get tax credits, and probably hit a home run,” Nix said of the old hotel. “This group has said no, that is not what they want to do. It is a common alliance, common goals, with this group that says that.”

Plans are to host the upcoming Brazos Foundation gala there this fall followed by a 50th anniversary celebration for Palo Pinto General Hospital. After the old Nazareth Hospital closed, PPGH began inside the hotel before moving to its current location.

Nix said plans are to renovate the second and sixth floors into efficiency suites and residential apartments – some on the top floor as large as 2,200 square feet – as well as the lobby, patio and ballroom.

“Another thing this (investment) group is in alliance with is this project does not need to compete with the Baker,” Nix said. “This is a project that needs to complement what the Baker developers have identified. That is the worst thing you want to do is have people think you jumped in and stole their show. This should be a prelude, I guess, to what is coming. I believe when the Baker comes you are going to have a successful downtown destination resort.”

He said the middle floors will eventually be remodeled based on the need for residential and hotel use, Nix said.

“This is where the business model needs to be completely flexible,” Nix said.

Berry good beginnings

The Nixes began their downtown renovation effort by looking directly across the street from their NSC Properties office on S.E. 1st Avenue – the building simply referred to as the Berry building because it housed Berry & Associates CPA. They purchased, then gutted and renovated, the two-story building. With its original brownstone exterior once again exposed, new windows and walls, the building is now anchored by All-Terrain Fitness, which moved there from its original strip center location on Garrett Morris Parkway.

“We welcome them to downtown,” Nix said. “Tell them how happy you are to have them downtown and the business they are going to bring in, and the new look that brings.”

Not long after that acquisition the Nixes purchased the adjoining Cole’s House of Flowers and Hill’s Style Shoppe buildings and the next building over. The Cole’s and Hills buildings will be connected through an interior passageway. Expected to open this fall in the corner building is the new Coffees & Cocktails, operated by Christie Rucker. The Hill’s building will be home to a new boutique mall of some 15 businesses offering higher-end merchandise.

Under the new name The Flower Shop at 76067, the former Cole’s House of Flowers is next to that and will be operated by Nix’s daughter, Lexis, as Dwain and Joy Eaton transition their ownership and management expertise.

The Nixes have acquired the former Ritz Theater building downtown with plans to renovate it, along with several others including a former restaurant building.

A couple of other property acquisitions tie into the park and greenscape plan along the Crystal Canal and N.W. 1st Avenue. One of those will involve the relocation of United Way of Palo Pinto County, which Nix said he has committed to help them do. Those property purchases will help create much-needed parking.

Nix envisions food truck pads, a splash pad, farmer’s market and other attractions to draw both residents and visitors to downtown.

A new farmer’s market, organized by Mike L. Page, has taken off in recent weeks, operating in the parking lot of the former Bank of America Building, a property also purchased by Nix, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2399.

“When people take action in this city we need to support that action,” Nix said of Page and the farmer’s market venture. “You have the farmer’s market right now going strong. I would hope everybody in the community would come together and support that. The city is helping support that, at least helping them get off the ground. I think the group has really done a phenomenal job putting something together within a month. The community buy-in is incredible.”

Developing a downtown park will require some public investment. There are several potential funding mechanisms already in place, one of which is the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that former Mayor Clarence Holliman and the city put in place in 2008. It has collected property tax revenue from downtown valuation increases over the last 10 years and placed those monies in a special fund which lsat largely untouched until recently. Some expenditures have been recently approved from the TIRZ fund to support a downtown historic properties assessment and survey and to fund the city’s share of a $1 million streetscape program through the Texas Department of Transportation.

Nix sees the fund growing even more in the coming years as property values begin to rise because of improvements. While there are broad uses for the fund to make downtown improvements, Nix said he would like to see use of those monies narrowed.

“I believe that is something that should be set aside and used for infrastructure,” he said. “If you make that pledge that is how you change this town quickly, to start sprucing it up, so that people who are driving through this town, and their perception of this ran-down town, you change that perception quickly with this urban park. And the citizens in this town, likewise, when you start seeing improvement, the splash pad people are looking for, there is change of perception from within.”

Joining in

The Nixes’ efforts are rubbing off on other downtown property owners as several others have made exterior improvements.

“You can identify what you can contribute and jump in there and do it,” Nix said. “What we can do as leaders is help people do that. I think the entire community is onboard and understands the importance of downtown revitalization. But what can they do about it? Not only for downtown revitalization but for the whole scope. Identify and get people involved.”

He said he and Misty are “newcomers” to this effort and the vision and inspiration shared by others for many years to bring downtown, and the city, back to life.

“I know a lot of you have had this dream long before me, but I was that passive guy who didn’t do anything about it,” Nix said. “Light a fire. Light a fire under this community and get them going.”