Outside the Statler, a Celebration. Inside the Statler, a Sneak Peek at the Work to Be Done.

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Photos by Sam Merten
Who can you name in this gathering of officials the mayor pulled together for a press conference-closing group photo?
When Sam and I got to Main Street Garden around 2:15 this afternoon for the Statler-sale press conference, there weren't a lot of people around -- just a few folks lingering on benches, and maybe a half dozen diners seated beneath the Lily Pad's shade. A lectern stamped with the city's seal of approval had been set up; in front of that, a few rows of chairs. And so we ordered our beer and dogs and settled in for the show.

And within minutes, the place was packed -- with city council members (Natinsky, Margolin, Medrano, Hunt, Koop, Kadane), preservationists (Preservation Dallas's Katherine Seale, Veletta Lill), developers and downtown real-estaters (Ted Hamilton and Jack Gosnell among them) and other city officials. At which point Mayor Dwaine Caraway, but half a week into his temporary term, arrived to officially announce the done deal: "What mayor could ask for a project as important as this on his third day? Let's give these three days a round of applause."

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Caraway spoke for a while, offering kind words for Tom Leppert -- whose "vision and commitment," said Caraway, have led to the revival of downtown. Then Ron Natinsky spoke, recounting the countless times he'd been told to tear down the Statler or just blow it up, like they'd done to the Baker: "A lot of people thought it would the quickest, easiest thing to do," he said. Then developer Leobardo Trevino spoke, explaining why he just spent $17.5 million on the Statler and the old library: "We feel a responsibility to bring it back. We need to respect the property."

Then Downtown Dallas Inc.'s John Crawford spoke, offering his favorite aphorism: "Success is a team sport." And then Lill spoke, repeating something the late David Dillon once told her: "If there's one building your going to save, it needs to be the Statler." Then Caraway gathered almost everyone in attendance for the photo you see above -- a grand gesture in front of the old Dallas Grand Hotel, which is very Caraway.

And then Trevino invited some of us inside the hotel, where a Ricchi Development banner already hangs on the driveway covering he wants to remove in order to restore the facade to its original look. And for the next hour, Sam and I wandered the Statler -- from the ground-floor Churchill's, still a sight in stained glass, to the rooftop sun deck, where the world's loneliest jacuzzi awaits company.

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Trevino almost didn't get the Statler. There were other interested parties, say those familiar with the deal, among them Forest City (owners of the Merc and Continental) and Jack Matthews, who built the convention center hotel and has his own boutique-hotel redo in the works next to his South Side lofts. But city officials believe in Trevino, pointing out that despite some Friends' contention that not much is happening at the old LTV Tower on Pacific, it's well on its way.

(Angela Hunt, matter of fact, toured it this afternoon and said after the press conference she was "amazed" by the restoration in progress, which thus far has involved stripping the building of all its myriad add-ons and getting it down to the original concrete. She promises to post photos on her website perhaps as early as this evening; I'll post one or two when she does. Trevino also invited Sam and I to come take a look tomorrow during lunch; expect an account by Thursday's end.)

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Natinsky, Kadane and Medrano take a spin around the Statler's ballroom
As a few TV stations' cameramen set up for quick shots of the lobby, Pauline Medrano, Sheffie Kadane and Ron Natinsky wandered up a flight of stairs and into old ballroom, Medrano explaining that her uncle used to work in the hotel. Earlier, during the press conference, Caraway mentioned that Natinsky had "worked tirelessly on the Statler [and] pressured the absentee owners to sell," referring to Hamsher International. Caraway said Natinsky had even gone to Hong Kong to meet with them.

As we wanted further and further into the musty maze, I asked the mayoral candidate about that. He said he didn't broker the deal, but served as an intermediary between Hamsher and Trevino: "I was the Kissinger of the deal," Natinsky said, grinning.

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We stuck around for a good hour -- long enough that Trevino and other Ricchi execs offered to take us upstairs, to the top floor. Only yesterday, Trevino said, the city OK'd use of one of the working elevators, which sounds like a rocket and moves almost as fast. (It took all of five seconds to move from the ground floor to the 20th.) As you can see there's still furniture on the top floor -- even old Dallas guide books and Bibles strewn across desk tops and mattresses. Trevino says he's going to remove the walls, opening up every floor in order to rebuild ... though, still, he's not sure what it will become.

He says there's no plan yet, only a concept or two. Retail downstairs, absolutely -- perhaps by year's end. Residential, yes. But beyond that, he's not sure. He says he will spend the next several months gathering investors and formalizing a plan. He says he's in no rush. He says: "I want to do this right."

Then we strolled to the sun deck, which offers one of the most glorious views of the city.

"Are you intimidated by this promise you've made -- to not only redo the Statler, but to restore it to its former glory?" I asked Trevino.

"I was at first, but only a little," he said. "I was more nervous signing the papers."

We'll post a longer slide show tomorrow.
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The fireplace inside Churchill's, the interior of which is just below

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The Governor's Suite on the top floor of the hotel

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A view of Main Street Garden from the sun deck of the Statler

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25 comments
A. Roberts
A. Roberts

I worked at The Dallas Grand Hotel in housekeeping, front desk and night audit in 1995 to 1997.  It was a beautiful and very unique building with alot of history of many famous guests including President Kennedy, but I also remember the many major problems the building had.  I would love to see it flourishing again.  It is a one of a kind building.   

Doug
Doug

I don't get it...isn't the next thing you do after you close the business is have an auction and sell EVERYTHING that isn't nailed down? Why would the then-owner not try to recoup at least something for all that stuff? Heck, you'd of thought someone would have at least stuck that bottle of "57" in their pocket on the way out.

guest111
guest111

Interesting the hotel has already been served with Forclosure notice on the front door.

Roadsidecouch
Roadsidecouch

It will be interesting to see the same areas photographed in 19 years when it is all trashed out again.

Andy
Andy

So, did they leave the TVs and stuff too? More photos would be awesome.

Jack E. Jett
Jack E. Jett

I apologize in advance for this comment and admit I deserved to be flamed to death for it.

But these look like photos from Charlie Sheen's hotel room.

Ba da dump.

G_David
G_David

Wow, Irving High senior prom 1983 (I was a junior). Ballroom looks exactly like I remember it.

Matthew C
Matthew C

Wow! What I would have given to be in attendance. I was thinking this had been vacant longer than 10 years and was expecting the photos to look as if they opened a 70s/80s time capsule. I had no idea the Grand Hotel was opened until 2001. I was a little disappointed to see somewhat modern furniture in there. That said, the photos are great and wish The Observer would post more.

And I'm curious to know if the old place had been broken into and lived in by the homeless. The pictures of the Governors Suite shows various items around the room and disturbed dust on the end table. Was the room just left dirty from 10 years ago was that someone "staying" in the room sometime between then and now?

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

The press loves a good preservationist success story, so the faster Mr. Trevino can get this in some sort of national media (and give the facade a well-deserved scrubbing), the faster he can secure investors. I'm sure this would be a great project for the City of Dallas Regional Center as well.

But I'd be surprised if you could get any retail in there by year's end, especially considering how he hasn't been able to lease the ground floor of 1600 Pacific (and that building has plenty of parking).

Branden Helms
Branden Helms

"Caraway spoke for a while, offering kind words for Tom Leppert -- whose "vision and commitment," said Caraway, have led to the revival of downtown."

Caraway's knees have to be sore, it's been like this for four years.

Seriously, what has TL really done for downtown? The CCHotel is still up in the air, one reconversions in his term, and AT&T's relocation that brought in executives and moved some of the workers in an already filled AT&T building to the suburbs. Most if not all of the streetscape improvements came from the 2006 bond election. Most of the residential and hotel reconversions came in under the Kirk and Miller terms. Same thing with the Arts Districts and parks. And for the cherry on top, he pushed for the least-ridden, most-expensive second downton rail line.

Call me dubious about giving TL the downtown savior title.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Heres an amazing mid-century building that FINALLY getting some love and attention.. Even though I hate to say it, you have thank Mayor Tom on this one, as he made the initial call concerning this place being a public hazard. Heres hoping the new owners turn this place around into a true gem for Downtown..

Vjackson
Vjackson

I agree about the fireplace...it's way cool.

Nunya
Nunya

Churchill's? Probably not the same, but we had one of those in Baton Rouge. It was a cigar bar. I think they should do a remake of it and keep the fireplace just the way it is.

KSK
KSK

$100 to anyone who chugs that bottle of 57.

Guest
Guest

I don't trust anybody whose name looks like a typo.

Candy7777
Candy7777

I agree. Great job I would have given my right arm to be there! Well, maybe just a finger or two...

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

You have some play in this, RW. You have been one of the only outlets for news on this property. Plus it is clear you like the 'One The Beach" vibe of the abandoned stuff

Stacy Phillips1980
Stacy Phillips1980

there are plenty of pics on Wikipedia under old Dallas public library..pretty cool

Andy
Andy

Oh, now I see the slideshow. Thanks for that. So they did leave the televisions. And the phones. And the exercise machines. And damn near everything, by the looks of it. Amazing. The whole thing gives me the chills, to be honest.

CRA
CRA

@ Branden - you are absolutely, but that goes for the entire Council, most importantly Angela Hunt, being her district and the Economic Development Department. They know very little about how to really make development projects happen and their vision (rich and white people only) of downtown blew up right in the face, resulting in setting back downtown by decades.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

This end of downtown, especially, has nothing to do with Ex Mayor Tom. Very few people would even care about the Statler (if only because they weren't able to see it) if it weren't for the Mercantile block project and Main Street Garden.

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