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The Mainzer

Hotel, restaurant and bar could find home on New Braunfels Utilities site on Main Plaza

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A boutique hotel, restaurant and bar and more could be located on what is now the home of New Braunfels Utilities on Main Plaza.

After what officials called an extensive vetting process, the utility on Thursday announced it has selected a recommended team that includes local developers for the acquisition and development of the property which “delivers on the highest and best use of the site.” 

Team Mainzer, comprised of New Braunfels-based Seals Family Properties, Houston-based builder Kingham Dalton Wilson and New Braunfels-based Gillum Development, was named for the proposed site activation, delivering on goals the utility set up earlier in the process. 

The proposed development integrates German culture and includes a downtown boutique hotel to be named “The Mainzer” and social gathering places including a restaurant and bar, and a social garden, a place developers said is conceived “to feel like home, providing a welcoming environment to come and stay for a while.”  

“Team Mainzer is honored and excited to be selected as the recommended developer of NBU’s Downtown Main Plaza building,” developer Gary Seals said. “We are locals, and we understand the importance of preserving and enhancing this important cornerstone of downtown and the history this site represents. We look forward to working out the details of our vision and bringing this concept to life — for the enjoyment of locals and tourists alike.”

The team will formally present their proposal to the utility’s board for consideration at the monthly board meeting on Jan. 27, in the form of a memorandum of understanding, which is for exclusive negotiation of a development agreement. 

No monetary figures were disclosed on Thursday. Negotiations with NBU and the city continue and will ultimately shape the final concept of the project. 

NBU started the divesting process of its historic Main Plaza buildings in January as it prepares to build a new headquarters off of Loop 337 adjacent to the Trinity well field and treatment plant.

 

How it started

NBU didn’t just put out a “For Sale” sign on the property. The utility began a process to identify developers that would qualify to participate in a proposal process that officials said “would further enhance our community’s quality for the future of downtown New Braunfels.” 

The utility received six responses to that and shortlisted three qualified candidates for the project. In May, the utility asked the candidates to provide greater detail on what redevelopment of the site would entail.

Officials also underwent a series of meetings with New Braunfels City Council members and supporting boards to put protections in place to preserve and protect the downtown property’s historical elements. 

Buyers interested in the property would have to adhere to overlay district rules set within the buildings’ boundaries. 

The utility engaged Douglas Architects’ Andrew Douglas and worked with the city of New Braunfels to develop an overlay district to ensure appropriate uses for the site.

“The key to NBU’s Main Plaza planning process has been the ongoing, productive collaboration with NBU, the city of New Braunfels, and the stakeholders, determining the best use for the site long-term, making sure that the proposed design ‘fits in,’ that historic structures are preserved, and that the development provides an economic a catalyst for the greater downtown and other projects in the area,” Douglas said. “We are very fortunate that NBU didn’t just sell the property, but instead, recognized this unique opportunity to be a positive influence on the downtown. This is truly a unique public/private legacy project, which the citizens of New Braunfels will enjoy for years to come.”

Douglas added that studies conducted on the site indicated a need for structured parking.

“One of the key components of this plan is a parking structure that is located on the back side of the development,” he said. 

NBU overlay district

The overlay district for the NBU property on Main Plaza which is slated to be developed in the future after the utility moves to its new headquarters. Submitted photo

 

A team effort

The utility assembled two teams to develop and evaluate responses. The first team, called the Core Team, included Douglas Architects, two utility board members, three utility employees, and two city of New Braunfels employees. 

The second team, called the Project Advisory Committee, was composed of representatives from the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, the New Braunfels Downtown Association, experienced central Texas developers, members of the community and local property owners. 

The teams worked independently for both the RFQ and RFP evaluations. Both teams unanimously agreed on their shortlist and the ultimate selection of the recommended developer. 

The Core Team and Project Advisory Committee met on Oct. 20 and jointly interviewed the three shortlisted respondents. At the conclusion of the in-person interviews, a consensus was reached on selecting the recommended developer.  

Ian Taylor, NBU’s chief executive officer, described the announcement of a recommended developer as “truly a historic moment in time.” 

“New Braunfels Utilities has called the Main Plaza home for 80 years,” Taylor said. “It was important to our board of trustees that we protect the property’s historical integrity that NBU has worked decades to preserve and develop. The transformation of the NBU Main Plaza location has been a tremendous journey and the time and effort our Core Team and Project Advisory Committee have put into this very important process will add value to our community for generations to come.”  

The complex contains three connected buildings constructed at different times in the city’s history. The two-story structure today totals 26,721 square feet and contains surface parking.

 

Site history, future

NBU has been a part of downtown since Oct. 13, 1942, when it began with nine employees serving electricity to a community of just over 7,000 people.

“Team Mainzer’s plan for the site’s redevelopment reflects an understanding of the community’s culture and citizen desires to preserve the character of the downtown while encouraging expanded accommodation and food and beverage options,” said Jeff Jewell, the city’s director of economic and community development. “The community vision for the site was articulated to a robust public involvement process led by NBU and the city of New Braunfels, and the Mainzer team’s redevelopment strategy will bring that vision to reality by introducing new commercial opportunities into the heart of the city and increasing the pedestrian experience in a manner that honors our history and promotes a high-quality sense of place.”  

Taylor added that the recommended team took “tremendous care to understand New Braunfels, our community, downtown and the character of who we are.”

“After understanding that, then they went forward (with deciding) what would be good use and what would be good to build there,” Taylor said. “Those of us at NBU, we feel a significant obligation to our community to get this right. What’s going to end up here is going to affect downtown and our community for generations to come.”

In July 2020, the New Braunfels City Council approved the transfer of the NBU Service Center located at 355 Farm-to-Market Road 306 to the city of New Braunfels and the leaseback of the property until NBU vacates the property. 

The Service Center building provided the city a lower-cost alternative that will relocate street maintenance, solid waste and recycling services from downtown, also a step towards implementing the South Castell Avenue Master Plan.

According to officials, the new NBU headquarters will consolidate operations of the Main Plaza and Service Center sites and include the utility’s fleet as well. 

The headquarters is budgeted at $34.4 million, the net of proceeds from the sale of the current Main Plaza office and Service Center on FM 306. 

In 2018, NBU evaluated its current facilities, long-term growth of the service territory, cost and other criteria and developed a facilities master plan, which showed the best value was to sell the Main Plaza Office, along with the Service Center located on FM 306, and build a new headquarters.

Although the timeline remains fluid, NBU officials said they hope to move out of the Main Plaza office and into a new headquarters by spring of 2024.

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