TEXARKANA, Texas - After more than three decades dark, the iconic sign atop the Hotel Grim shone again Tuesday.
At a sunset ceremony hosted by the city and developer Cohen-Esrey, a crowd in front of the Perot Theatre led by both Texarkanas' mayors counted down from 10. The mayors pulled a ceremonial switch, the sign blazed back to life, and those gathered - many holding up cellphones to record video of the event - cheered.
Texas-side Mayor Bob Bruggeman had begun the ceremony by recounting the history of the hotel's construction and opening on July 15, 1925, saying it was called a "a monument dedicated to the progress of greater Texarkana."
Sets of identical twins attended the opening to symbolize the twin cities of Texarkana, and the gesture was repeated Tuesday. Bruggeman recognized Texas-side residents Todd and Brooke Marshall and their young twin sons, Luke and John.
Cohen-Esrey executive Tom Anderson said when he first saw the hotel, he thought an attempt to renovate it would be crazy. But after meeting with city officials and members of the community, his mind changed.
"I heard story after story about how important this project was to the city of Texarkana. So little by little, I became convinced. And if there was any more convincing that I needed, it happened tonight," Anderson said, adding that working on the project is special.
"It's finally becoming a reality, and it is just such an honor for me, it's an honor for our team, it's an honor for the investors that we brought to the table, to be part of such an important building block in the fabric of community here in downtown Texarkana.
"I'm looking forward to being back here a little over a year from tonight, when it's in the springtime and perhaps a little warmer, and we're going to cut the ribbon and have a grand opening celebration for the new Hotel Grim," he said.
Temporary measures were used to light the sign Tuesday, said David Peavy, whose local company Artex Electric has the electrical contract for the Grim project. Peavy coated the sign's letters with reflective white paint days before the ceremony, and two 500-watt LED lights powered by a portable generator lit them from the front.
Contractors will take down and renovate the sign permanently at some point during the building's rehabilitation. The paint should not hamper that effort or violate any historic standards the project must adhere to, said Ellis Mumford-Russell with Ogee, the Austin-based historic preservation consultancy advising the Grim's developers.
Funded by a multifaceted $25 million financing package, the project will convert the hotel into more than 90 apartments for low-income residents. It is expected to be completed in spring 2021.