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story.lead_photo.caption Workers from West Drilling remove dirt for Swift Creek Environment to do an environmental study on the soil of the Hotel Grim to see if it's contaminated before investors finance the building for renovations on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in Texarkana, Texas. Staff photo by Hunt Mercier

An environmental company from Virginia was in Texarkana to conduct soil tests Wednesday at the Hotel Grim.

"It's part of our normal course of business. Lenders, investors, everyone want studies done to prove the property is safe. It's very standard procedure," said Tom Anderson, managing director of Cohen-Esrey Development Group.

"We are winding our way through the approval process," he said.

Swift Creek Environmental performed Wednesday's tests, Anderson said.

The project has received its tax-exempt bond allocation and other approvals that are needed.

Closing on the sale of the historic downtown hotel could happen in February. Renovation work on the downtown building is expected to begin this spring.

However, the federal government shutdown could slow things down because the historic tax credit review process is at the federal level.

"We are a victim of the government shutdown," Anderson said.

He said the historic preservation process started at the state level and that has been approved.

The National Park Service received the information in mid-December, but it was approved before the shutdown.

"There are other moving parts we are moving forward with," Anderson said. "This is one of three different projects we have around the country that have the same issue."

The project will convert the hotel's upper floors into more than 90 apartment units.

Cohen-Esrey will be the general contractor for the project and the building's property manager once work is completed.

The firm will hire local subcontractors whenever possible.

Certain areas of the building have been identified as having high historical significance and will be restored to their original condition as much as possible.

They include the hotel's lobby, Palm Room ballroom and roof garden. Restoring and relighting the large Hotel Grim sign on top of the building is also in the budget.

Developer Jim Sari, who began the project before bringing on Cohen-Esrey as partners this summer, announced in May 2017 that he would also develop two abandoned buildings near the Grim. But plans to renovate the former Sears store at 301 Pine St. and the Harrell Building at 317 N. State Line Ave. have been sidelined.

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