Developers eye Hotel Sabine for housing project

Published 8:15 am Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Midwest developer was in Port Arthur Friday to introduce himself to City Council and outline the first step of a lofty plan to turn the aging and dilapidated Sabine Hotel into a housing complex for people with jobs.

Jake Mooney, a principal with MRE Capital, said his company is looking at historic properties all over the state, including two in Port Arthur: the Sabine Hotel and the World Trade Building.

The developer would use tax credits to offset the cost of renovations, which could reach as much as $30 million for the two buildings.

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Built in 1929, the Sabine Hotel at 600 Procter Street became the city’s property after the once luxurious 10-story building closed down in the mid-1980s.

Mooney said the company looks for properties that have been neglected or set idle.

To date, MRE has spent $100 million in re-development.

Mooney introduced to Council the idea of building a mix of affordable and market rent housing from the second floor up.

The affordable housing is meant for working class people, those making roughly between $30,000 and $40,000 such as starting teachers or police.

Any form of subsidy would come in the form of tax credits, not help with rent, Mooney said.

The majority of the units end up being affordable with income restrictions, Mooney said.

District 5 City Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis said he was not in favor of more subsidized housing because the city was already saturated with them.

“I want you to be a success as long as you don’t want to come in here and load us up with more government housing. We don’t need another Section 8 government rent subsidized housing project,” Lewis said.

Mooney said no less than 60 percent of the housing units would be affordable, and the remaining units would be market rate.

The affordable units would rent for $400 to $600 a month, with the market rates coming in about 15 percent higher.

If built, MRE would own the property for at least 15 years, he said.

Mooney said he hoped to enter into a contract with City Council that would allow his company to bring in architects and contractors to develop a specific plan.

Construction, Mooney hopes, will start about this time next year.

City Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince said she was in favor of the project going forward.

“I always pictured having lofts there that looked out over the water,” Prince said.

The Hotel Sabine was originally operated as the Vaughn Hotel until the mid-1930s. At 118 feet, ten stories, it remains the tallest building in Port Arthur. It features Beaux-Arts architecture style, built with steel-reinforced concrete and brick on 640 steel-laced wooden cypress pilings driven 60-foot into the ground. It was designed to withstand the most severe coastal storms, but like many buildings received damage during Hurricanes Rita and Ike.


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