Mayor David Turner said he expects city leaders to determine what to do with the Ector Theatre within the next six weeks, as officials search for ways to pare down renovation costs after estimates for the project doubled in the past year.
The City Council faces pressure to move quickly if they want the Ector Theatre to open around the same time as the rest of the city-backed downtown hotel and convention center in summer 2019. A redesign could take months, and the inflated cost estimates prompted the City Council to consider whether the city should just tear down and replace the theatre.
But Turner, who last month criticized the city-hired architect as incompetent, said he believes the most recent $10.8 million estimate was inaccurate. Last year the city awarded a contract to the firm for design and management of the Ector Theatre project expected to cost about $800,000.
“We are looking at all the options and unfortunately sometimes that doesn’t happen quickly,” Turner said, but he added that “I’m pretty confident we won’t end up tearing it down.”
Turner’s comments came a day after one of the private investors in the hotel and convention center project, Toby Eoff, appeared at a City Council meeting to ask the city to decide soon. From the beginning of the hotel and convention center project, years in the works, city leaders pitched the theater rehabilitation as a key piece of the public investment intended to spur a broader redevelopment of downtown Odessa.
Eoff and his wife, Sondra, are investing more than $50 million in the project and would operate the city-funded convention center and the theater. Toby Eoff said during the Tuesday meeting that the couple has joined a historic theatre association and begun working with a Ruidoso, N.M., based company to recruit acts — some of whom must be booked a year in advance.
“We are still committed to downtown, we are committed to the city… we are committed to the Ector,” Toby Eoff said. “But what we need is a decision to be made.”
Odessa Mayor David Turner
We are looking at all the options and unfortunately sometimes that doesn’t happen quickly. I’m pretty confident we won’t end up tearing it down.”
He suggested options for the theatre: building it as intended at a higher-than expected cost, and possibly trying to find other private support; paring back costs and still rehabilitating the theater; or turning it into an open air venue, keeping a restored façade.
Toby Eoff called the Ector Theatre an “anchor to this whole project, the very nucleus of where the properties got bought out to put the hotel” when city officials conceived the convention center years ago. The theater, he said, will be “basically on par with the Wagner Noel,” which was built at a cost several times greater. Whatever city officials decide about the Ector Theatre, the Eoffs will still commit to managing the facility, Toby Eoff said.
Construction of the downtown hotel and convention center is underway.
As recently as June 2017, city officials had estimated the public investment in the hotel and convention center to amount to about $31 million.
That estimate omitted a cost of an initially planned public plaza and fountain across the street because city officials decided to postpone it. But the estimate did reflect expected costs of the redeveloping the Ector Theatre that later increased.
Today, City Manager Michael Marrero said city staffers are focused on working to find ways to pare back costs of the redevelopments including mechanical and lighting expenses that saw some of the greatest overruns in the most recent estimate from the architect.
If the City Council can approve a renovation plan in the next six weeks — around the time when the officials approve a budget for the coming fiscal year — the mayor said that should allow for enough time to finish major construction on the building by the time the hotel and convention center opens.
“You’ve got a year until the convention center is open,” Turner said. “You want to open the convention center and you don’t want to see a lot of trucks working on the Ector.”
IN OTHER BUSINESS, THE CITY COUNCIL:
- Approved repurposing $50,000 for the Odessa Convention and Visitors Bureau to incentivize sports events coming to the city, including a winter golf tournament and a summer softball tournament.
- Approved accepting an $85,000 donation for the Odessa Police Department from the 2018 Bustin’ for Badges event.
- Approved minutes for meetings on May 22 and June 5.
- Approved an agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation for temporary closure of Grant Avenue between Second and Sixth streets for the Firecracker Fandango event on June 30.
- Approved renewal of an agreement with BBVA Compass for depository services.
- Removed from the table, opened a public hearing and voted for the first time to approve a request of Triple J Investments to rezone a piece of land near the northwest corner of Dawn Avenue and Charles Walker Road to allow development of six-single family homes. The item had been tabled in March to address concerns of neighbors.
- Approved abandoning alley right-of-way on less than an acre of land between North West County Road and Elliot Avenue.
- Opened a public hearing and approved for the second time a request by Shanthi Thangam for original zoning of Retail-One on about one acre of vacant land to accommodate a jewelry store east of the intersection of the Highway 191 service road and Rocky Lane Road.
- Opened a public hearing and approved for the first time a request by Callon Petroleum Operating Company for original zoning of Future Development-Drill Reservation on nearly 90 acres of land near County Road 1305 in Midland County.
- Discussed in a pre-meeting briefing session retail recruitment strategy, a water master plan for capital improvements, and two board appointments.
Ector Theatre remodel renderingsKillis Almond Architects, P.C.