Smith County Commissioners have several proposals on the table for the future of the old Carlton Hotel in downtown Tyler, but the body isn’t ready to pick one.
“We have some real good prospects,” said Mark Whatley, with Burns Commercial Reality, who was commissioned to help Smith County find a suitable buyer for the eyesore in downtown Tyler’s skyline.
“I was pleasantly surprised in the level of interest we had immediately,” Whatley said. “We have shown the property multiple times to multiple (developers).
He said the projects include a variety of multi-family housing and mixed use on the street level. Some include hotel space, and at least one proposes bringing what used to be a restaurant space with a dance floor back into use.
On Tuesday, the Smith County Commissioners Court went into executive session to discuss a possible sale, but ultimately made no decision. The old Carlton hotel will remain in Smith County’s possession for now.
The project will require deep pockets to complete. Last year the county completed a study on the feasibility of moving its courts into the building, and found it could run $46 million.
Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said there are multiple offers on the table, and the county expects a few more to trickle in.
“Although there was no final decision made today, we are very pleased with the progress toward finding a long-term solution for the Carlton,” Moran said. “We have multiple offers and additional other prospects that continue to look at the facility. All of the offers we have received today would benefit the citizens of Smith County in rehabilitating the Carlton and making it a beneficial, taxable property moving forward.”
Moran said he expects movement on selling the building soon, but he did not give any specifics.
The project will require deep pockets. Ideally, it wouldn’t be the first project for the developer.
“We are not going to micromanage their plan, but we want to make sure they have good architects in place and that they have the financing behind them or their own personal financing to not only start the project, but to complete it,” Commissioner Jeff Warr said.
A feasibility study completed last year showed it would cost an estimated $46 million to turn it into an adequate facility to house the district courts.
Those numbers weren’t feasible for the county.
“If we can get that blighted property up and restored and back on the tax roll and help the downtown area while we are doing it - it’ll be a win-win,” Commissioner Terry Phillips said. “After all the studies we have done, I don’t think anyone is ready to rehab that building and put county employees in it.”
Under the contract with Burns Commercial Properties, the broker has a year to find a suitable buyer for the Carlton.
Smith County will require the developer to get the necessary building permits within 90 days after the property closes.
It also requires the developer to invest at least $1 million into the project, and spend $650,000 toward those improvements within the first 18 months.
Burns Commercial's services will receive 6 percent of the selling price as a brokerage fee. That fee will be paid by the county, not the buyer.
From 1954 to 1971, the Carlton was one of Tyler's most luxurious hotels.
The 115,000-square-foot structure, built in 1954 at the corner of Broadway Avenue and Elm Street, has a three-story, 126-space parking garage as well as a rooftop swimming pool and cabana.
The county bought it in 1977 and began moving offices there in 1979, after some remodeling.
The building housed the sheriff's office and probation department for decades. The offices slowly were moved into renovated facilities in the 2000s, and the last Smith County office moved out of the space in late 2013.