Business

Why You Need to Know Mehrdad Moayedi

The president and CEO of Centurion American is giving new life to an iconic downtown building.

Why You Need to Know Him:

Because he has taken a small construction and development firm and grown it into a diversified real estate powerhouse that has had a significant impact on North Texas. Centurion American develops everything from upscale high-rises to master-planned communities. And Moayedi is about to make an even bigger splash in downtown Dallas with an ambitious redevelopment of the iconic Statler Hotel and Residences. Centurion purchased the complex in 2014 and secured $46.5 million in TIF money from the city of Dallas to fund its refurbishment.

A native of Iran, Moayedi came to North Texas in the late 1970s while he was in high school. After the Iranian Revolution halted his family’s ability to continue sending him money, he began working in landscaping and eventually started his own business mowing lawns, building retaining walls, and the like. His client base grew as his company built a solid reputation. Moayedi eventually met Fort Worth homebuilder Herman J. Smith, who shepherded the young entrepreneur into the development business. Smith also introduced Moayedi to Ross Calhoun, who worked on Smith’s executive team. Calhoun began shuffling some development work to Moayedi, who took it on with a brave face. 

“The first development I did on my own was called the Windsor Forest in Grapevine, probably in about ’86 or ’87,” Moayedi says. “That one didn’t make money; we actually lost about $600,000, so I had to go to the next one just to make up for my losses.” 

And that he did; his next project, Dominion in Southlake, was lucrative enough to pay everybody off while fueling additional development projects in Lakewood and Colleyville. From there, the success of Centurion snowballed.

“We got into the infrastructure business, which was utility paving and stuff like that,” Moayedi says. “It just got too big, so we were able to sell that company off—that was such a good day. We got into manufacturing and concrete products, then in about ’97 or ’98 we sold all of that off and focused heavily into development. Our first big one was The Villages of Woodland Springs; it was like 4,500 lots.” 

Centurion broke ground on the Statler’s $175 million redevelopment in May.

Since then, Moayedi hasn’t had much idle time. The developer has been seizing opportunities to buy properties out of bankruptcy and spin them into mixed-use developments. His projects often  include a special focus on walkability and strive to provide a live-work-play environment for the residents who occupy them. But in April of this year, Centurion announced a new focus: historic preservation and hospitality.    

The company will open The Statler Hotel and Residences about a year from now as part of a franchise agreement with Hilton Worldwide. The iconic Statler Hilton originally opened its doors at 1914 Commerce Street in Dallas in 1956 and was heralded as the “first modern American hotel,” boasting such never-before-seen touches as elevator music and 21-inch Westinghouse televisions in every room. 

The $175 million redevelopment will create 161 hotel rooms on the lower five floors and 219 residences on the top 11 floors, plus meeting space, retail and office space, four restaurants, a lounge, and a new music venue in a 14,500-square-foot ballroom. Centurion broke ground on the project in May.

Moayedi and business partner Frank Zaccanelli, who have been friends for 30 years, have big dreams—and a big budget—for the space. “I’ve worked for some influential people, but I don’t know that any of them would have been able to see it in the beginning like he saw,” says Zaccanelli of Moayedi. “He saw what could happen with collaboration with the city … and he really had a vision. He put his money where his mouth is, and Mehrdad was several million dollars into this before we really knew what we had. That’s really the sign of a guy who has great instincts.” 

These days, some 150 to 200 workers are in the Statler building each day, salvaging inches-thick marble, restoring a historic Jack Lubin mural and other artwork, and executing plans that call for new-and-improved uses of the building’s some 700,000 square feet. The developers are also working on turning the far-right lane of Commerce Street into a bylane to serve the hotel’s motor court, and considering ways to incorporate the hotel’s rich history into its next iteration.          

“When Conrad [Hilton] bought the Statler brand, it was one of the largest real estate acquisitions in U.S. history at the time,” says Zaccanelli. “Conrad had people coming in … it would be the equivalent of Jerry opening a new stadium today.”   

“It’s got a lot of history; I think we’re being very conscious of preserving it,” Moayedi adds, hinting at a grandiose unveiling come October 2016. “This hotel put Dallas on the map before. We’re just going to try to preserve the history and pass it on.”    

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