TEXARKANA, Texas — After 30 years of standing vacant, the The Hotel Grim is slowly returning to its original 1920s splendor.
Debris is being tossed out "one bag at a time" and reminders of the hotel's one-time elegance are taking its place.
Tile and bricks used in the 1924 construction of the downtown Texarkana hotel are in remarkably good shape and the job of restoring the building into apartment units is underway.
"It's really exceptional. They had a way of getting things done back then," said Tim Minson, Cohen-Esrey Development Group project manager, about the building's structure. "As a whole, the building is extremely strong."
On a tour Thursday, he showed off the the first floor where guests once dined at the hotel's cafe and the eighth-floor ballroom where they would dance into the night.
The first floor also includes the "Palm Court" with a fountain area and white columns. The lobby was billed as the showcase of the hotel and featured a marble floor.
Abatement of asbestos and other dangerous materials from the Hotel Grim began in November 2019, marking the beginning of the iconic downtown building's long-anticipated rehabilitation.
The priority right now is to continue the demolition and start putting in the roof. That will hopefully be completed in three to four weeks.
The seventh and eighth floors of the hotel have recently been cleared of debris.
"Debris is going out of the building one bag at a time," Minson said. Most bags are tossed out the window into a Dumpster below. Debris that includes lead paint can't be tossed out because it would be hazardous if the bag broke, he said.
"We are still in full demolition right now. We have got to stabilize the roof and get water out of the building," Minson said. Water has caused the most damage to the building over the years.
"One drop at a time and every year, it just got worse and worse," he said.
During the demolition, there could easily be between 60 and 100 people working on the building each day, Minson said.
The terrace on the building's roof where the hotel's iconic sign is located is also in pretty good shape. Minson said Texarkana's relatively mild climate has helped keep the bricks in good shape.
"It's rare to see 100-year-old brick that looks this good," he said.
One thing Minson is proud of is how much of the work and materials used in the restoration are from local sources.
"That's important to me, to use as many local businesses as we can," he said.
After this phase is finished, a restoration group will work on the details of the tile and other original fixtures inside the hotel.
"There are a couple of groups in Texas that will bid on restoration. It takes a certain type of artisan to come in and do this type of thing," Minson said.
The project is expected to be completed in the spring of 2021.
Plans are to convert the building into 93 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. All apartment units in the Hotel Grim will be affordable-rate housing because the project is partially funded by the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. That means tenants can have a household income of no more than 60% of the local median. Rental rates have not been determined.
Cohen-Esrey has launched a website, HotelGrimApartments.com, aimed at potential future tenants of the building. It features floor plans and descriptions of the hotel's planned amenities.
Named after Texarkana banking, railroad and timber magnate William Rhoads Grim, the hotel opened in 1925. Construction cost for the luxurious 250-room hotel was nearly $1 million. It closed in 1990.
After significant effort in the last decade, the city and developers secured the multilayered, $26 million financing package that will pay for renovating the Grim. The transaction included both housing and historic tax credits, EPA funds, a Neighborhood Stabilization Program loan, conventional debt and local contributions from the city.