Developer looks to renovate, reopen Marlin VA, Falls Hotel

A developer is hoping to reopen and renovate both the shuttered Marlin VA Hospital (right) and the historic Falls Hotel. (Photos by Randy Davis)
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MARLIN, Texas (KWTX) In what could be a major shot in the arm for Marlin’s sagging economy, a Houston developer is negotiating to renovate and reopen the shuttered Marlin VA Hospital, the historic Falls Hotel, and the city’s once popular mineral baths.

Central Texas state Rep. Kyle Kacal, R-College Station, confirmed the negotiations Wednesday before speaking to the Marlin Rotary Club.

“We’ve got some investors in the state of Texas, which has opened the door for the VA and those properties to sell.......the sale of the property has been approved so we made the first major step."

The Thomas Connally Marlin Veterans Affairs facility officially opened in September 1950, but was closed as part of a consolidation of VA services in 2005.

Two years later the state purchased the building with plans to convert it into a 200-bed hospital for inmates of women’s prison units in Gatesville, but the plans never materialized.

The facility is now being handed over to the Texas General Land Office to begin appraisals and then the state will take bids.

At the same time, Sterling Real Estate Development Company of Houston is in direct negotiations with the owner of Falls Hotel, Chris Martinez, to find financing to renovate the hotel built by Conrad Hilton in 1929.

The 110-room hotel was connected by a tunnel to the bath house across the street, and the developer is also talking to the city about reopening the mineral baths, Mayor Elizabeth Nelson said Wednesday.

"These developers are going to reach into that past and bring it into the future," she said referring to the mineral water that drew thousands to Marlin until the 1960s.

In fact, the deals appear to turn on the city’s hot mineral water, which was discovered in 1892 during the search for an artesian well.

The city was promoted as a health center for the next 50 years.

The New York Giants traveled to Marlin for spring training for a decade beginning in 1908.

By the 1930, some 80,000 people were visiting Marlin annually, and the mineral water remained popular into the 1960s.

Marlin native Gene Brown says he attended a private meeting over the weekend with Nelson and an engineer representing the developer.

“They are now going to test the water and make sure it's the same it was years ago,” he said.

"I think people would come from far and wide if they realize the benefit of what this water can do for them," he said.

Martinez confirmed Wednesday that the developers have the funds to finance the project but "want to make sure the water tests right."

The developer is also interested in purchasing the Marlin Inn, and the portico and land across the street from the Falls Hotel, along with a shuttered restaurant adjacent to the historic hotel.

"The whole revitalization is just a great opportunity for us" Nelson said.

"It'll bring in hundreds of jobs into the city, bring visitors into the city (and) when that happens property taxes and sales taxes will increase too."