After years of controversy, Beaumont’s downtown AT&T Building is slated for asbestos abatement and demolition.
Ultimately, the 3.7-acre location is on track to become a public public park with social amenities to draw families and tourists — an update the Beaumont City Council received from City Manager Kyle Hayes during a vision workshop held last week.
“Maybe you’re waiting to eat or you do eat, then you want to go outside,” he said. “You could have splash pads, you could have a pavilion where bands could play, you could have playground equipment for kids with astroturf areas like they do in other areas of the country. It fits in with everything we’ve been trying to do for 30-plus years.”
The session about the 555 Main St. property took over an hour to review, in part because the council still is not in agreement on how it should be used. Ward II Councilman Mike Getz said the AT&T Building should remain in place so the rooftop can be turned into a restaurant that overlooks the Neches River and the first floor can be a center for the Battleship Texas, should the Battleship Texas Foundation choose — with the blessing and financial participation of the council — to dock their ship in Beaumont.
Most council members indicated a willingness to reconsider bringing the ship to port in Beaumont, provided there were more concrete plans for funding and a more comprehensive presentation from the historical foundation.
But one council member was not at all interested in bringing the ship to the city.
“If we want to have true development and maximize the development that we will have there, we cannot afford to have the ship take up the majority of the shoreline,” said Ward 3 Councilman Audwin Samuel. “The aesthetics are taken away. I’m an advocate of history. But if you want to maximize the atmosphere, you don’t want (there) to be a focus on one thing.”
He said that if he were to come to the riverfront for dinner, he wouldn’t want to have to look at an old ship.
The fate of the Battleship Texas remains to be seen, but the long-planned demolition of the AT&T Building was settled by a majority of the council.
“In this case, six out of seven are saying continue on the same path,” Hayes said. “We were just looking for the green light to continue moving some of these things along.”
Getz ultimately acquiesced to the will of the council.
“It’s a very good building. It’s been through multiple hurricanes; it’s never flooded. So I think it’s a shame to see it go,” he said. “ I strongly disagree, but I’m just one council member.”
Written by Rachel Kersey