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Commercial Real Estate

Drummer Turned Developer: John Kirtland and the New Cambria Dallas Downtown

The renovated Tower Petroleum Building experiences rebirth as a boutique-style hotel.
By Will Ehrhardt |

After four years of efforts by Dallas-based developer John Kirtland, the Tower Petroleum Building on Elm Street will open as Cambria Dallas Downtown, and will begin full service on March 1st after a soft opening late last year.

After career-hopping from being the drummer of Deep Blue Something, Kirtland began his career as a real estate developer in 2001. Renovating the 23-story Tower Petroleum Building is the largest project he has undertaken, but it attracted his attention for the same reasons his other developments did: “I always tried to find [properties] that were interesting architecturally, and were just missing that twist, that little turn of the prism that would spark the life back into it.”

But the 177-room hotel renovation was not without obstacles. “The biggest challenge was taking a property that was deemed as one structure by the National Parks Service and trying to split that apart and finance it into two separate pieces,” Kirtland says. Through a number of financing strategies, Kirtland secured funding to bring the vision he had for the 87-year-old tower to life. “Everbody said I was crazy,” Kirtland says, “People asked me, ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’… I became fascinated with it. It became an interesting puzzle to solve, and I saw the value it could bring to the area.”

The National Park Service’s registration form for the Dallas Downtown Historic District highlighted the Tower Petroleum Building for, “represent[ing] the city’s prominent role in as oil and gas headquarters of Texas and the Southwest,” as well as being, “representative of the earliest Art Deco designs for Dallas.” Amenities for the boutique-style hotel include a full-service bar and restaurant, a fitness area, and 1,500 square feet of meetings spaces.

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