Panel rules on value of Dallas convention hotel parcel

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on October 27, 2011 at 7:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 27 at 7:38 PM

DALLAS — It may be the most interesting property in Dallas. No, not the glamorous new Omni Hotel, but a tiny strip of land that's not part of the project.

Carolyn McClain has a very favorable, long-term lease on the diminutive parcel that was once slated to be part of a mixed-use development.

In 22 years, McClain says she's collected $800,000 in rent. The proceeds, she says, are donated to charity.

Assistant City Attorney Ken Bennett grilled McClain's appraiser Michael Massey on his assessment that the land is worth more simply because it generates income for McClain.

BENNETT: "The fact is, you don't have any comparable sales on any property selling for $800 a square foot, do you?"

MASSEY: "Not in this state, no."

BENNETT: "Not in this world, I would think. Where would you have prices like that, in Hong Kong?"

MASSEY: "To the contrary, you're talking about these long-term leases. I just did Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue in New York, and it's going for 2,500 bucks per square foot for land."

BENNETT: "Well, this is isn't Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue."

MASSEY: "That's correct. But you asked me, and I told you,"

In the end, the three-judge panel sided with the city, but experts say this may be just the beginning of an extended legal tussle.

McClain is likely to sue, claiming the city does not have the legal right to take her land by eminent domain at all because the hotel is an economic development project... not a public use like a bridge or a city park.

"It's a public use, we think," Bennett said. "It's a publicly-owned building."

Still, despite the big wrangling over the small parcel, McClain said she's willing to work something out. "In all sincerity, I think there is some way this could be mediated," she told the panel.

Experts say a quick settlement may be in the city's best interest. This particular legal question has never been tested before in Texas, and a lawsuit could take years to fight and go all the way to the Texas Supreme Court.

That would cost Dallas time, money and living with this eyesore while Carolyn McClain continues to earn her money.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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