Caruth and Crow: Let’s Make A Deal?

Have you ever thought it strange that there are so few motels along North Central Expressway between Mockingbird and Royal Lane? Ever wondered why NorthPark Inn has a virtual monopoly on the tourist trade drawn by NorthPark. Old Town and Greenville Avenue? There is, of course, a reason.

Dallas land baron Will Caruth is responsible for one of the city’s least known but most effective building restrictions. The Caruth family trusts owned most of the land along Central from Mockingbird to Royal. After Caruth built the NorthPark Inn at Park Lane and Central, he refused to sell any of the surrounding land without a deed restriction prohibiting hotel and motel construction. The only motel to slip through was the Ramada Inn at Central and Yale – Caruth sold an unrestricted option on that land to an office developer, who in turn sold it to a motel developer. Will Caruth was outmaneuvered that time, but his finesse in drafting land sale contracts has kept NorthPark Inn almost free from competition.

It appears that Caruth is now willing to part with not only his NorthPark Inn. but also the precious acreage surrounding it, at a price of perhaps $20 million. The rumored buyer is Trammell Crow. Crow has built hotel complexes elsewhere, including one currently under construction on Stemmons across from his World Trade Center. Word has it that Crow is developing an elaborate plan for the Caruth land, to include retail and office space as well as a new hotel.

Putting a hotel on the site looks like a better idea every day. The location’s major shortcoming is its distance from the downtown convention center, but a solution may well be in sight. The city council’s favorite scheme for improving traffic flow from downtown to North Dallas involves converting the MKT railroad bed into a tollway or rapid transit line. And preliminary drawings for the project show transit stations that just happen to be next to the hotel site.

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