Preservation Dallas held its 18th annual Preservation Achievement Awards at The Statler Hotel and Residences Wednesday night. The original Statler Hilton Hotel was completed in 1956 with a $16 million price tag, complete with 1,000 guest rooms. Now, the downtown building is wrapping a $225 million redevelopment that, upon completion, will feature 219 residences, 159 hotel rooms, as well as retail and dining space. The Dallas Morning News has also signed on to move in.
Giving a true nod to the building’s history, Wednesday’s event was complete with classic cars parked out front and—not to be missed—a real llama walking among the attendees in the lobby (Llinda Llee Llama was an old guest of the hotel).
I had lunch yesterday with Robert Grunnah of Younger Partners, who told me that he was
there when the place originally opened and remembers it fondly. (Grunnah grew up in Chicago but spent summers in Dallas with his uncle, who officed downtown.) I can only imagine what The Statler looked like when guests including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and The Jackson 5 graced its halls.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings kicked off the Preservation Dallas event, saying it was remarkable to have this renaissance and reawakening of such a building. Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, also took to the podium, saying that he once thought he’d see this gem meet the wrecking ball. “If this is what a behemoth looks like, then bring me more behemoths,” he said. The statement was met with great applause from the audience.
Stephanie Meeks, the evening’s keynote speaker and president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, pointed out that Dallas is leading Texas in the number of historic tax-credit projects like the Statler—twice as many, in fact, as Houston, she said. And, to top it off, we were all sitting in the current largest historic tax-credit project in the state.
Meeks also recalled an excerpt from the book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” wherein Jane Jacobs wrote: “Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.” Meeks went on to say that neighborhoods where there’s a mix of old and new buildings produce more small-business jobs and more activity at night and on weekends.
While it’s impossible to know yet the full benefits The Statler will bring once it opens, its curb appeal and location—directly across the street from Main Street Garden Park—are certainly working in its favor. The Statler Hotel and Residences will have a soft opening in late summer, with a grand opening scheduled in early 2018.