SAN BENITO — Four years after its purchase, the Stonewall Jackson Hotel stands boarded up, the San Benito Housing Authority’s most historic property.
More than a year after the Housing Authority took the building off the market, a “for sale” sign still juts from the old marquee at the corner of Stenger and Reagan streets.
“If someone would want to entertain an offer, I’m sure it would be considered,” David Cortez, the agency’s interim executive director, said Friday.
But the agency’s board of directors is considering other plans for the three-story building, which has been closed since 2012.
“We’re trying to see if we can restore that facility,” board Chairman Fred Garza said. “We know it’s very costly.”
Garza said the board is discussing with developers a plan to apply for federal tax credits to help fund the building’s renovation.
As part of the project, the building’s second and third floors would house elderly residents or veterans while its ground floor would house commercial offices, Cortez said.
“We’re trying to make it something feasible for the community to utilize,” Garza said.
Garza said another option includes working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to use the building as a storm shelter.
“It is one of the most soundly built structures,” Garza said, referring to buildings in the area.
Today, the Stonewall Jackson stands as a monument to the city’s heyday as northern Cameron County’s commercial centerpoint.
Built in 1927, the grand hotel served as the center of society in the town that became an agricultural hub.
Now, the housing authority’s board is discussing options after the agency tried to sell the building.
Around mid 2015, the agency put the building on the market, said Cortez, who took over as the agency’s interim director last November following a two-year series of directors and interim directors.
What’s with the sign?
The listing expired around March 2016, after the building failed to draw a buyer.
More than year later, the for-sale sign remains — even though it incorrectly lists realtor Toni Crane’s phone number.
Cortez said broker Merced Perez Treviño is responsible for the sign’s removal.
Meanwhile, Perez Treviño said she has been requesting the company that installed the sign to remove it.
But the company has been slow to do the job because the work would require a crane to remove the sign, Perez Treviño said.
How we got here
Since the Housing Authority purchased the building, officials have discussed its future.
In 2013, then-Executive Director Arnold Padilla led the agency’s former board to spend $220,000 to buy the building.
At the time, the architectural firm Megamorphosis Design estimated it would cost at least $2 million to renovate the building’s first floor and replace windows throughout the building.
Meanwhile, the entire building’s renovation would cost about $3.4 million.
Padilla’s preliminary plans called for developing commercial office space on the building’s first floor, while he also considered moving the agency’s offices there.
As part of his plan, the agency’s public facilities corporation would work to raise money from within the community to fund the building’s renovation.
In October 2014, Padilla resigned from the agency to take a job as executive director of the McAllen Housing Authority.
Since then, the agency has undergone changes, with a new board of directors overseeing a series of directors and interim directors.
For decades, the Stonewall Jackson Hotel served as a plush social hub before falling into decay.
According to public records, Omar Cuevas and Esmeralda Nelson bought the building in 2009 for $126,491 from Patricia T. Brown, assuming payments on an initial $175,000 note payable to Sandra Rae Nelson and Bob Nelson, who operated the hotel for about 20 years.
Cuevas said he had planned to renovate the building that continued to house tenants.
But he shut down the hotel in October before pleading no contest to city building code violations for which he faced $12,500 in fines.
1927 > Construction completed
2012 > Closed after city citations
2013 > Purchased by the San Benito Housing Authority
* Apply for tax credits to renovate for elderly or veterans housing
* Work with FEMA to use as storm shelter