First step in the 2nd Street Project breaks ground - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

First step in the 2nd Street Project breaks ground

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LAWTON, Okla_The golden shovels were brought out and ground was officially broken at the location of the new hotel and conference center on 2nd Street in downtown Lawton. For six years, this project has been in the works, now 18 months of construction has kicked off with a ceremony and lunch for honored guests, city officials and developers.

When we talked to Mayor Fitch we asked him to look around the empty lot and describe what this area used to be. He used words like "rough" and "blighted" he said one of the struggles was changing that and relocating all of those folks that called this portion of 2nd Street home. Another struggle, perhaps the biggest struggle, what is being called the "great recession" of 2008.

But four years later at a ground breaking ceremony you wouldn't know that the plummeting economy nearly stopped this project in its tracks.

"I'm going to have to pinch myself because this day finally came. The recession was a complete burn down, melt down, whatever you want to call it. It was very severe. It had a tremendous impact on financial institutions, on developers, on retailers making moves. You'd have retailers doing 100 stores a year and all of a sudden they're not going to do any. It makes it hard to keep that momentum going," Fitch said.

A team of city officials and developers did keep that momentum going. Words like "persistence" and "perseverance" kept popping up at the podium. While skepticism in the community grew, so did determination on the city's end.

"The community maybe had their doubts, but I want the community to know that we stuck with it, and it happened. And there will be more good things to come to this community."

Like jobs, Fitch estimates close to 500 construction employment opportunities and close to 200 more once the hotel and conference center open. A $31 million loan split up between six local banks will ultimately result in a 3 story hotel, with about 170 rooms, a conference center and meeting rooms and a gourmet restaurant and bar.

Mayor Fitch said for the most part, the city's role in this project is over. Now, it's the developers who are taking over and he is more than happy to pass the baton.

"It's been fun, it's been stressful, it's been meaningful, but it's all worth it today. And in 2 years, 3 years, 4 years from now, which is half the time that we've worked on the project, the citizens are going to receive a tremendous benefit."

As for that $31 million loan, the state is matching the city's sales tax revenue, all the revenue generated by the project will chip away at the loan. Mayor Fitch said the loan will be paid in half the time.

The hotel and conference center are set to open in April of 2014.

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