Port Isabel's Yacht Club Hotel goes from 'endangered' to saved

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POSTED: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 5:15pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 8:48am

Very soon, tourists will no longer be able to tour the historic Yacht Club Hotel, built in 1926. Recently, it made the "most endangered" site list.

With business struggling, owner John Hiller simply couldn't keep up with its needs.

"You know anytime that you have an old building like this, you're going to have problems with just about everything."

Coming to the rescue, is the city of Port Isabel. Thanks to a $1.2 million grant from the U.S Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.

The city will be buying and turning the hotel into Port Isabel's Culinary Institute.
For City Manager Edward Meza, finding a way to preserve, as well as to make new, was important.

"Our historic preservation board was saying how can we do it to preserve this part of history and coastal history?"

For eight year-long owner Hiller, this is great news.

"It's a good thing because I'm kind of a preservationist and I don't want to see this thing go by the wayside. They don't make these 90 year old buildings anymore."

The city says they intend to keep the outside structure looking pretty much the same with the inside seeing renovations such as a new museum, a new restaurant, and a kitchen incubator for new chefs and cooks.

A new learning and economic opportunity for Port Isabel and the Rio Grande Valley is a great accomplishment in Meza's eyes.

"We want to see how we can bring back income to the city and help our youth here in the city and the Rio Grande Valley."

The culinary institute is expected to create new jobs to benefit about 100 students each semester. For now, current owner Hiller has other plans.

"I think I'm done. I think I'm going to go ahead and party," says Hiller.

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