Although obstacles remain for a proposed $50 million restoration of the historical First National Bank building in downtown Paris, talks continue between the city and developer David Alarid of Austin and Paris.
The possibility of an Alarid appearance before Paris City Council appears likely in the coming months, and the solution of a problem with the public sidewalk on Bonham and 1st NW streets above a deteriorating basement could be forthcoming if Alarid agrees to a 50/50 agreement with the city for an engineering study and needed repairs.
In 1886, long before the Texas Highway Department constructed streets and the City of Paris built sidewalks, parts of the First National Bank basement extended under where a sidewalk is today. Water infiltration, either from the sidewalk above or from another source, has caused deterioration of basement infrastructure.
Through recent correspondence, City Manager Grayson Path offered a 50/50 split with Alarid on the cost of an engineering study and damage repair to both the sidewalk and to the basement support underneath if he receives City Council approval and money is available. Path also told Alarid he would help with an application for economic development funds from the city, and accompany him to a City Council meeting.
“The 50/50 offer extends to splitting the cost of the basement and the sidewalk repair so long as the city has available funds to do so,” Grayson said Friday. “The city will make a good faith effort to appropriate those funds.”
Alarid first questioned the offer based on uncertainty of funds to do the repairs.
“This does not seem much of a reliable 50/50 partnership agreement to me,” Alarid wrote in Nov. 18 email correspondence with Path.
On Friday, however, Alarid said he would agree to the 50/50 split.
“Grayson (Path) wants me to pay for half of a report even though I already have one that I submitted four years ago; but, I will pay for another if that gets us off of full stop,” Alarid said in email correspondence with The Paris News. “I am even willing to pay for it 100% if the city would simply get out of the way and let me do the work.
“Clearly the church (former First Church of Christ Scientist building, 357 W. Kaufman St.) and the Hinkle building (corner of the FNB northwest parking lot across from Hole in the Wall) is evidence I can do historical repairs that satisfy the Texas Historical Commission and the National Parks Service,” Alarid said.
About the city manager’s offer for possible economic development assistance from the city, Alarid said he expects no incentives but would gladly accept a “feel good contribution.”
“Of course I will accept, but in truth, at the end of the day, I expect zero incentives and would be thrilled if they simply let me move forward and let me do what I do best,” Alarid said.
According to The Paris News files, Alarid purchased the bank property in November 2015 with plans for the restored building to include a high-end restaurant on the first floor, a bar and possibly retail shops on the second floor, and hotel and luxury apartment on the third-sixth floors and a cafe and grocery store in the basement.
After purchasing the building, Alarid ran into trouble right away when the west wall started slumping and thought to be in danger of falling, according to newspaper files. In June 2016, the city gave the owner 90 days to repair the wall. Alarid said he could not do repairs until AT&T removed cell towers from the roof, and the city turned off electricity.
The following year, AT&T eventually relocated its towers, the city cut off electricity, Alarid repaired the wall and Paris City Council forgave fines against the building. Because of the tower removal, however, in early 2018 a cell tower leasing company sued Alarid because their tenants, AT&T Mobility Corp, were forced out of a lease. The case settled later in the year, and Alarid turned his attention to other Paris properties but made no progress on the bank building, citing problems with obtaining city permits.
The City of Paris first installed a chain-link fence around the property to protect pedestrian traffic, and replaced it with a black metal fence in January 2019. Alarid has since boarded the building.