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“Sweet” Real Estate Project Raises Funds For Local Hospital

In keeping with the spirit of the holiday season, the Texas A&M Traditions Club turned a rather unique piece of real estate into the perfect fundraising opportunity. School affiliates, in association with the community of Bryan, Texas, recently built the world’s largest gingerbread house as a means to raise money for a local hospital. The project is currently the focal point of a Christmas tourist attraction to raise money for a new trauma facility at nearby St. Joseph Health System. In a period of less than a week, the gingerbread house has already raised more than $150,000.

The undertaking to erect the house was an unparalleled success, as the project surpassed the previous record by nearly 3,000 cubic feet. Officially dubbed the world’s largest gingerbread house on November 30, the 39,201.8-cubic-foot structure now stands on its own platform in the Guinness Book of World Records. The house surpassed the previous record of 36,660 cubic feet set at the Mall of America in 2006.

“I’m both a Food Network junkie and a Google guy, and twelve to fourteen months ago I saw something about gingerbread houses, and it spurred me to find out what the largest one ever built was,’’ Bill Horton, the general manager of the Traditions Club, told TODAY.com. “In June, I was at a luncheon with St. Joseph’s Hospital, and I got this crazy idea to build the world’s largest gingerbread house and combine it with their drive to build a center for their trauma program, and they bit.”

A well-known homebuilder and architect from the area is credited with the design of the gingerbread house. The meticulous attention to detail is noticeable even from a distance. Every aspect was crafted to look like that of a real house. The resemblance between the project and a typical single-family residence is shocking. The development of the house even required building permits and approval by the local fire department before ground was broken on the project. Donations, from lumber to butter, made up a large portion of the materials that were used.

“Basically it has everything but indoor plumbing,’’ Horton said. “It was a lot of fun and had a lot of challenges.”

As required by Guinness World Record stipulations, the house’s entire exterior was constructed with gingerbread and icing. According to Today.com, “the house is 60 feet by 42 feet and 20.11 feet tall at its highest point, and the gingerbread exterior required 1,800 pounds of butter, 7,200 eggs, 7,200 pounds of flour and close to 3,000 pounds of brown sugar.” In addition, the house was adorned with 22,304 pieces of candy, bringing the total calorie count to 36 million.

Despite being met with overwhelmingly positive observations, there are several concerns regarding the world’s largest gingerbread house. The weather, in particular, threatens the charitable building on a daily basis.

“Being in Texas, we had some challenges building outdoors,’’ Horton said. “We had some high humidity and had to reduce the amount of butter we used to make it harden up. Now we’re facing a big winter storm, and I’ve tossed and turned all night about how to cover it. We acquired a 6,500-square-foot tarp, and putting that on to cover it should be a challenge in itself.”

Daily maintenance is required for the exterior, where the heat has melted some of the candy and other pieces occasionally fall off.

“The biggest issue has been bees,’’ Horton said. “We called in a beekeeper the other night and he said there was a cluster of about 2,000 bees. We’ve worked all around them through the process. They’re not bothering us. They’re just getting drunk on sugar.”

For those interested on visiting the world’s largest gingerbread house in person, operating hours are between Tuesdays and Sundays from 6 to 10p.m. and it will remain open till December 14. Admission for adults is $3 and children are just $2 each. Nearly 600 visitors have shown up each night since the house opened and their proceeds have managed to raise more than $15,000 for the St. Joseph Level II Trauma Center.

Real estate investors, on the other hand, can take a page from this latest charitable effort. The holiday seasons provide a great opportunity to give back to the community while establishing brand name. Now that the holiday season is upon us, make a consorted effort to pay it forward. Your contributions to a charity of your choice will go a long way in helping others. You may also be surprised how much it helps your business in return.

Image: REUTERS/Texas A&M University/Handout via Reuters/CBS

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