Illustration by Mona Daly

Downtown Dallas

Lunch with D CEO: Shawn Todd, of Todd Interests

With several adaptive reuse projects under his belt, Todd is turning his attention to a $450 million revamp of First National Bank Tower.

The lunch crowd is just beginning to stream in when developer Shawn Todd arrives at Mirador, the buzzy restaurant atop Forty Five Ten, a tony boutique in the heart of downtown Dallas. He takes note of the interior table where I’m sitting and asks a waitress if we can move to a spot that’s closer to the windows.

“I promise I’m not high maintenance,” he assures her. Then he turns to me and adds, “I just want to look out at the buildings. You can see the history and get a great sense of what’s happening downtown.”

Our new table offers a view of the Main Street and Elm Street corridors … a swimmer cooling off in the cantilevered pool at The Joule, the Pegasus-topped Magnolia Hotel, and, down a bit on the right, the former First National Bank Tower. 

The 52-story building occupies the largest vacant block downtown. Various resuscitation attempts have been made over the years, most recently by Drever Capital Management. But now, the property is in the able hands of Todd, whose Todd Interests took control in May.

Before we get to that, I ask him to fill me in on his back story. He grew up in Oklahoma, where his family lost everything in the 1980s oil and gas crisis, he says. He moved to Dallas in 1985 after graduating from Baylor University, because he “needed a j-o-b.” After five years at Connell Development Co., he opened his own shop. In the early days, Todd would dig through boxes of files of failed S&Ls, looking for opportunities. By the 2000s he had done some “de-malling” projects and developed an affinity for adaptive reuse.

“It’s 100 decisions a day. You constantly need to keep your eye on the ball.”

Our waitress returns and answers Todd’s questions about the tuna tartine and the tuna crudo. He opts for the latter, with baby lettuces on the side. 

Todd is a regular at Mirador, as it’s a quick walk or scooter ride from his office at 400 N. Ervay St., where he redeveloped the landmark Dallas U.S. Post Office and Courthouse—his first downtown adaptive reuse. Success there led to his transformation of One Dallas Center, which now houses 14 floors of office space and 16 floors of luxury residences along the DART line and overlooks the soon-to-open Pacific Plaza Park. 

Last year, Todd Interests kicked off East Quarter, which involves refurbishing 18 buildings on several blocks between Deep Ellum, the Dallas Farmers Market, and downtown—plus adding a 17-story mixed-use tower. “Thinking back to the RTC days, you have to look for anomalies,” says Todd, whose sons Patrick and Philip have joined him as partners in the family business. “But we’re looking for more than a story. At the end of the day, you’re there to create value.” 

The 1.5 million-square-foot former bank building at 1401 Elm St. is Todd Interests’ most ambitious project yet. In fact, at $450 million, it’s the largest historic renovation ever undertaken in the state. When complete, the historic tower will house luxury apartments, restaurants, retail shops, and a 200-room Thompson Hotel. 

But the clock is ticking; work has to wrap up by the end of 2020 to qualify for $100 million in tax credits. “It’s 100 decisions a day,” Todd says. “You constantly have to keep your eye on the ball.”

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