If you look at the blueprints and the models for the final stages of development of the downtown Arts District, it’s breathtaking—an open-air concert venue, a performing arts center, and other arts-centered buildings, all intricately integrated into a holistic, aesthetically pleasing experience for the eyes and ears. It will be a jewel for Dallas’ cultural crown.
But there is one problem lurking on the northern edge: Craig Hall’s 1980s-era parking garage—easily one of the ugliest of its kind in downtown, with broken ventilation fans and water drainage problems. Against the arts tableau, it stands out like a tattered reproduction of Dogs Playing Poker in a room full of Picassos.
The property has been stuck in limbo for years despite Hall’s desire to build a condo and office high-rise. Deepening the quagmire is a suit and countersuit between the city of Dallas and Hall Lone Star Associates, which owns the property. The suits concern the city’s lease of a portion of the spaces, some broken agreements, and the usual reams of red tape.
“We were ready, willing, able, and planning to break ground on a 47-story, multi-use building in 2006,” Hall says. “We had office tenants interested … and I personally committed to provide $50 million in equity.”
When the city said no, it got ugly. Hall billed the city for things like insurance premiums, which he had been letting slide. The city sued. Hall prepared a countersuit. It appeared no one would blink.
Word from insiders is that a resolution is imminent. Hall and the city are settling the lawsuit, sources say, meaning the last piece of the Arts District puzzle may be free from the suspended animation it’s been stuck in going back to the mid-1990s. Whether Hall will go all guns as soon as the litigation is out of the way is another question, of course. A lot of Hall Financial Group’s capital is tied up in American Airlines stock, a stock which has plummeted as of May to just over $6 a share, owing largely to record oil prices (and the airline’s new controversial checked baggage pricing). Still, at least the landscape will be clear if the money can be lined up. And then, with luck, the Arts District picture can be completed.