This past May, the development arm of Douglas Manchester got some good news from the media arm of the mega-millionaire La Jollan.
"Construction on the 1,054-room Fairmont Austin, which will be linked to the Austin center via a sky bridge, is expected to get under way by September," a U-T news story quoted Manchester as saying about the voluble developer's latest hoped-for project, a soaring convention hotel in his favorite Texas city.
"The Fairmont Austin will be the premier hotel, in my opinion, in Austin, and it will have the only direct connection to the convention center, so I believe it will be the headquarters hotel for the citywide conventions that take place there,” the San Diego Republican kingpin continued.
“It will allow for citywide conventions to take place, but right now Austin is having a very difficult time doing citywide because of the lack of mega hotels.”
The U-T added that Manchester had "inked a nearly $247 million contract to construct a 47-story convention hotel in Austin," an announcement of which had appeared in the Austin American-Statesman two months earlier.
Still, Longhorn-sized doubts have persisted about whether the project — first reported more than three years ago in the Austin daily — will ever really break ground, at least in the majestic form currently on the table.
Financing has yet to be announced, with Manchester's son Douglas W. Manchester, known in Texas as "Baby Doug," reportedly pitching it to Chinese investors as part of the federal government's controversial EB-5 visa-for-pay program.
Since then, according to contributors to an online forum maintained by SkyscraperPage.com, there's been increasing talk of cost overruns and downsizing the building.
"I heard from what I consider to be a fairly reliable source that they are trying to squeeze money out of the budget and that the final version of this building will likely be shorter and fatter," wrote "SkyPie" on June 23.
"The hotel will still energize that area of downtown in a way it isn't today, but it doesn't sound like it'll end up being much to look at when compared to the fancy renderings we've seen up to this point."
On July 20, contributor "bigdogc" checked in to the forum. "Here is what I have found out from a subcontractor that wishes to remain anonymous. — The old design at 47 floors is way over budget. The new design is still over budget, but they are working on it. It will be 36 floors, but add more hotel rooms per floor (shorter and fatter). The height will be below 420 feet.
"Current scheduled ground breaking is in October. If they miss this date the entire project is in jeopardy as many subcontractors will walk."
"I explained my worry on this project months ago. I don't think Baby Doug knows his head from his ass! What is he trying to do...build the tower out of platinum? JK
"It will be interesting to see what Hunt Construction was told when they signed a $247 million deal to construct the tower this past May.
“According to all the press on this deal, as of late May (2014) the building seemed to be a go in its original form. What has happened since?
"All in all, I'd rather it not get built than have some piece of crap constructed on that site!"
No matter what ultimately happens to the project, the online Texans appear to be making the best of their long hot summer and the reflected glare of the wealthy Californian’s doings.
"Wonder how long before the San Diego Reader picks up on this breaking news from Skyscraperpage," wrote "hookem.”