Bill to Help Fund Downtown Abilene Hotel Becomes Law

Bill Passes Without Governor's Signature

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) - The bill that would help fund a new hotel next to the Abilene Convention Center has now become law. 

HB 2445 is effective immediately and was filed without Governor Greg Abbot's signature. 

The new law allows the City of Abilene the authority to use the state-allocated portion of the Hotel Occupancy Tax to help pay for the hotel project. 

Because the bill was passed by the state legislature within 10 days of its final adjournment, the governor had 20 days to either sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

It was allowed to become law on Thursday without the governor's signature. 

History of the effort for a convention center hotel

Abilene has recently focused on its efforts to improve its downtown. Most recently, the Civic Center had its name changed to the Convention Center. 

The City of Abilene first announced its intention to build a downtown hotel and festival district near the Convention Center on North 6th Street. 

Abilene, already the home to dozens of conventions and events, hopes to become the home to many more. 

It's the belief of many city officials and city advocates that the Convention Center hotel would become a catalyst to more downtown growth and development.

Outgoing Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald has called these times the "Abilene Renaissance." 

History of legislative efforts

HB 2445, now law, is not the first bill that's gone through the legislature to help fund an Abilene downtown hotel project. 

SB 729 was the first bill of this past legislative session to pass to engrossment. It was authored by State Senator Dawn Buckingham.

A sibling bill was also in the State House of Representatives. It was authored by State Representative Stan Lambert. 

Eventually, the Abilene portion of the bill was rolled into a more comprehensive bill that was passed toward the end of the session. 

Bill specifics 

Section 351.102 of the Texas Tax Code already allows cities that reach certain population requirements to use these state-allocated taxes to fund qualifying hotel projects, but the City of Abilene doesn't meet the population requirements outlined in the current code.

HB 2445 proposed amending section 351.102 of the Texas Tax Code to add a sub-section (e), which would include population criteria the City of Abilene could meet.

The bill, now law, would have no financial impact on the City of Abilene because the taxes that would be used to help fund the downtown hotel project are already levied and would just be reallocated from the State under the now passed legislation.

Going forward

Abilene's City Council has already approved a resolution to direct the City Manager to enter into an agreement with a firm for the building of the downtown hotel.

The firm chosen was Garfield Public Private our of Dallas. 

The City drafted a request for proposals for this project earlier this year along with a letter from Mayor Norm Archibald that said, "the intent of this proposal is to find the right development partner to construct a conference center hotel that will serve as a catalyst linking Abilene’s burgeoning medical district with its vibrant and historic cultural arts district."

The hotel will serve as a hub for, "the urban frontier located within the heart of [the] city," which offers business, modern living, culture, and entertainment to a variety of tourists and residents.

The Request for Proposals says, "the Festival District is envisioned to become a major attraction to downtown by complementing the existing Convention Center with a new full service signature hotel, unique eateries and urban housing to serve as a catalyst for even more urban development to follow."

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