Editor’s Note: This article was updated July 6
Centurion American already established itself as a high-end developer of communities in the suburbs around Dallas in 2014, when the firm took on the $225 million restoration of one of downtown’s most iconic hotels—The Statler Hilton Dallas.
Bringing back The Statler, a 61-year-old landmark that closed in 2001, would be remarkable enough. It was a state-of-the-art hospitality experience in its day, listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America’s Most Endangered Places until Centurion came to the rescue.
It appears, however, that Centurion has more ambitious plans within the downtown districts. At the June 22 meeting of the City Plan Commission, a request by Centurion American Development Group to amend the zoning on a half city block that is adjacent to The Statler property was approved without discussion.
Requests for comment from Centurion or its publicist went unanswered, but here’s what we know from the public record: On March 30, Centurion submitted a request through its in-house general counsel to amend zoning to allow coverage on a plot of land to increase from 85 percent to 100 percent; in other words, allowing the developer to build up to the property line on every side of the 1.09 acres it controls.
The proposed site is comprised of seven contiguous lots that are bordered by Jackson Street, Harwood Street and Commerce Street in the Main Street District. All the land is presently used as surface parking, and the site faces The Statler project from Harwood Street.
From the Commerce Street side, the property is also directly across from the Old City Hall Building at 106 Harwood Street. Conley Group is completing a major restoration of the 1912 building, which will become the new home of the UNT Dallas College of Law. It’s just our guess, but this corner is the most likely position for a main entrance, since it would face the Old City Hall and Main Street Garden Park.
The purpose of the zoning change is to “construct a mixed-use building with multifamily and office uses in conjunction with a parking garage,” Centurion’s application stated. There are no details given as to the number of stories or gross square footage.
In a July 5 statement, Centurion said construction should begin this month on a six-level underground garage, adding the garage is being built first to meet the parking needs of The Statler. Plans for a residential building above it would be implemented at a future date.
According to a state Architectural Barriers Project report, the parking garage portion has an estimated cost of $5 million and includes new sidewalk and street frontage. The designer is structural engineer Victor Lissiak Jr. of Addison-based Viewtech Inc.
Referring to the city’s comprehensive plan for guidance, staff at the Development Services Department commented in favor of the change, noting that a mixed-use building was preferable to surface parking, and the remainder of the block had primarily vacant, two-story buildings that could make a comeback as retail, office or personal service businesses. In regards to the 100 percent coverage, staff said Centurion was committed to maintaining sidewalk regulations and design requirements; these require 10-foot-wide sidewalks with 7 feet being unobstructed.
“The district’s landscaping requirements focus on street trees, parkway landscaping, and pedestrian amenities and therefore can be located within the right-of-way or inset underneath an upper story projection of a building,” the staff analysis added.
The immediate neighborhood started making a major comeback when developer Larry Hamilton converted the former offices of Atmos Energy into apartments. The complex that includes the Lone Star Gas Co. Building, a 13-story art deco structure built in 1930, and the Dallas Gas Co. Building, originally a four-story building that opened in 1924. They reopened as the Lone Star Gas Lofts in 2012 and 2014.
Given the proximity of this proposed development to these historic landmarks, Dallasites will no doubt be very interested in whatever architectural concept Centurion produces. There is no height restriction in the district, so the scale of the project could match or exceed the 19-story Statler.
Meanwhile, Centurion has requested — and is expected to receive — a one-year extension from the downtown tax increment finance district, upon which it relied for a $46.5 million loan. The Statler was scheduled to finish in October, but Centurion now projects an October 2018 completion. However, residents have already begun moving into some of the apartments.
The redeveloped Statler is a mixed-use concept that will include 219 luxury residences in the 11 upper floors, a Hilton hotel with 159 guest rooms, a live music event space, fine dining, and boutique shopping.There are basement levels that were converted to parking for 250 vehicles. Centurion is also responsible for the redevelopment of the city’s former Central Library. The Dallas Morning News is contracted to make the former library its new headquarters.