Charette sees large turnout

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

February 12, 2015

Dozens of Port Isabel representatives met at the Port Isabel Event & Cultural Center Saturday as part of the Port Isabel Culinary Charrette Invite and Agenda. The seven hour gathering was sought to discuss opportunities and recommendations for the ongoing transformation of the former Yacht Club Hotel into the Regional Port Isabel Culinary Arts School. Topics included preserving the cultural and historical aspects of the original establishment, tourism opportunities, regional needs and establishing a stabilizing a learning environment.

Project architect Teresa Fonseca, of STAR Consulting, said she enjoyed seeing how many people came to the event. “I think it was very positive. We heard from so many distinct people and walks of life,” she said. She went on to say the purpose of the charette was to gather “vision and ideas from stakeholders,” in the project, including local residents.

First and foremost to any construction or renovation plans, however, will be stabilizing the structure of the former hotel itself. Fonseca hopes to be able to make use of existing structures and materials in what she calls “adaptive reuse.” Once the building is stabilized, then its uses can be determined. Fonseca said many ideas were bandied about, including a culinary arts school, hotel space, and a restaurant possibly featuring an “a la carte” menu.

Susan Seifert, of Dallas design firm Seifert Murphy, echoed Fonseca’s hopes to reuse or restore the Yacht Club’s former aesthetic. “We talked about restoring it back to its original self,” she said, describing how she would incorporate light-colored color schemes to help brighten the interior atmosphere.

The day-long gathering involved more than just slide show presentations and lectures from the professionals working on the project. Throughout the day, people were split up into three smaller groups that included project professionals, local leaders, and Laguna Madre residents. Each group brainstormed development ideas then gathered together to present them to everyone at large. “We wrote down ideas on tablets and presented them to the group,” Seifert said.

One  local resident in attendance was Valley newcomer Ken Koric, who recently moved to Port Isabel from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Koric, who previously worked as an electrical engineer before attending culinary school himself and working as a cook for 10 years, was excited about the charette. He said he viewed it as a great opportunity to get involved locally. Impressed with the level of detail involved with the presentations, he said, “I was impressed with how far along things actually are. I was expecting blank sheets of paper.”

“I’ve spent the last 10 years cooking,” he said. “It’s a neat thing to throw support behind.”

Staff writer Estevan Medrano contributed to this report.

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