JUDGE: A dream come true in downtown Cameron
Long before I became County Judge there was a dream to revitalize downtown Cameron. In fact, a professional study had been performed to determine what needed to be done. The first recommendation of the study was to move the county administration offices out of downtown, to enable new business to relocate.
Over the years the county had acquired nine buildings in downtown Cameron that were used to house the County Clerk, the Tax Assessor/Collector, the Adult and Juvenile Probation, Bea’s Kitchen, Agri-Life, the District Attorney and others. There was little room for new business in downtown Cameron and frankly little interest from the business community. But where could the county go that was convenient to house all of these offices and would new business come?
Then an idea emerged to use the vacated Cameron hospital complex. The Cameron hospital closed in December of 2018 and there was no apparent use for the 8.5-acre complex and three buildings. How could the County pay for the complex which was valued at over $1 million and where would the money come from to renovate the building? These were huge hurdles to overcome, but a perfect solution to centralizing County administration and vacating downtown Cameron.
The next idea was to trade the downtown buildings to the banks (Classic Bank, Citizens Bank and Buckholts State Bank) who owned the complex. However, the buildings were in disrepair and the Banks would work hard to find the right buyers. No easy task. Frankly, it would have been much easier for the banks to simply tear down the former hospital building and resale the land. But, they didn’t. They agreed to the trade.
The next hurdle was finding the money for the costly renovation of the 35,000 square feet of space in the former hospital building. We turned to our friends at the Central Texas Council of Government and the Economic Development Administration for help. By the grace of God, we were successful in receiving a $4.7 million grant for the revitalization project.
Now four years later, the trade is done, the building is renovated and for the first time County administration is under one roof, providing one-stop county services. Bea’s Kitchen is alive and well and serving excellent food to almost 100 seniors a day. Soon work will start on the former Professional Building, which is located in the hospital complex, which will house the County Health Department and WIC.
And what about downtown Cameron? Eight of the nine buildings have been sold to entrepreneurs who have spent a lot of money for renovation. Rickey Williams, of Classic Bank has carefully selected the new buyers to ensure their goals were to help with revitalization. The renovated buildings look marvelous and new business is coming. The former Bea’s Kitchen building has been beautifully renovated for an event center. The former JC Penney building has been renovated and already houses a great new coffee shop. The old Agri-Life building is being renovated for a nail salon and the former jail will be a Beer Market/restaurant and possibly a bed and breakfast! And there is much more to come.
Business and life is back in downtown Cameron. There is excitement and hope for the future. This was so apparent last Thursday when the entire downtown and the iconic Courthouse was lighted for Christmas. Hundreds of people and vendors were on hand for the ceremony and the square was full. Yes. The dream has come true!