DALLAS — Ambitious plans to redevelop the former Statler Hilton — once known as the downtown's "Grand Dame" — and the former central library got a green light from the Dallas City Council on Wednesday.
Members enthusiastically approved $46.5 million in tax increment financing funds. The funding serves as a lifeblood for the $175 million project, which developers say wouldn’t have been financially feasible without the TIF money.
Construction is expected to get under way early next year. Once it’s finished, the 17-story Statler and the former library will likely become the new "it" destination.
The newly redone Statler, at 1914 Commerce Street, would have about 230 apartments in the upper 11 stories and about 165 hotel rooms in the middle five floors. A spa, retail stores, and a restaurant are also planned for the property, according to city briefing documents.
There will be ballrooms, meeting rooms and a bar in the former library at 1954 Commerce Street on the east side of the Statler complex. A theater and office space is also part of the proposal.
"We plan on revamping the building and preserving the old look of it and bringing it back to life," pledged Mehrdad Moayedi, president and CEO of Centurion American Development Group.
Back in the day, the Statler Hilton was a happening place. Actors, rock stars and other luminaries flocked to the hotel, which opened in 1956. It even occupies a footnote in rock and roll history — Tina Turner was staying there when she left Ike for good.
Several Council members described fond memories.
"This hotel is one of the best hotels in the world," Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins said. "I had my prom right there in 1974."
The hotel — its glory days long behind it — closed in 2001. Over the years, it became a 17-story eyesore along Commerce Street.
The old library shut its doors in 1982.
The road to redoing the two historic buildings has been a long one.
In 2011, the Council approved about $16 million in TIF funds for another development group that was trying to redevelop the two buildings. The project was canceled last year because the developer didn’t meet project deadlines, according to city briefing documents.
Council members and the developer described the project as the last pieces of the puzzle to the remake that part of downtown. Next door is the old City Hall, where the new UNT Law School is going in. The popular Main Street Gardens is across the street.
“I personally cannot wait to have a drink at the bar at this hotel again,” said Council member Philip Kingston, whose district encompasses the hotel and library.
"I will have a drink with you," Mayor Mike Rawlings promised.
By Moayedi’s calculation, Kingston and the mayor will be able to share that drink sometime in late 2015 or mid-2016.