Assembling a design for the historic Ambassador Hotel restoration went forward by process of elimination at Monday’s Landmark Commission meeting.
The commissioners didn’t like the style of the awning over the entrances, or the grasses in the landscaping. They weren’t too crazy about the color scheme, either. Given that guidance, Chair Katherine Seale told the project architect they would revisit the Ambassador in January.
Jim Lake, a Dallas developer, began demolition over the summer to strip the 113-year-old building in the Cedars district of any components not considered historically significant. Estimated to be a $24 million project, Lake is converting downtown’s oldest standing hotel into an apartment building that will feature 103 mini apartments; average unit sizes are configured at 500 square feet.
Erected in 1904, the six-story Spanish Revival building was originally known as the Majestic Hotel. It became the Park Hotel by 1907 and was renamed the Ambassador in 1932. It hosted many prominent politicians and celebrities in its heyday, including American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Woodrow Wilson.
Lake purchased the property in 2015, but he is still hammering out the designs with the Landmark Commission and his architect, Merriman Anderson Architects.
Lake had eight requests before the commission:
- Once the exterior stucco is cleaned and repaired, allow the use of two off-white colors, Snowbound and Big Chill, for the body of the structure and the trim.
- The ground floor wood windows will be restored, but Lake asked that new low-E aluminum-clad wood windows be allowed for the upper floors.
- The use of contemporary steel canopies over the north, south, and west entries.
- The addition of a sunlit enclosure connecting the east elevator that reaches the roof to the central elevator.
- At the pool deck to the rear (north elevation), the addition of a metal railing, per a recommendation of the Texas Historic Commission. Lake had originally intended to replicate the original Juliet balcony railing, but was dissuaded by the THC.
- The removal of 21 trees, 10 of which are protected, to be replaced by ornamental trees, planting beds and tall native grasses.
- The removal of a non-historic CMU block perimeter wall.
- The wall will be replaced with a 6-foot-tall wrought iron, picket fence with pedestrian and vehicular gates.
Concerns were raised by the aluminum-clad windows, but commissioners were told that THC had approved the windows, so they moved on to other issues, namely the exterior paint scheme, the metal canopies and the landscaping.
“With the Spanish Revival style, we would have expected to see warmer tones,” Commissioner John Allender said. He also took issue with the awnings, which display the Ambassador name in a sleek cut-out letter style that was not likely found in 1932.
Merriman Anderson claimed they could find no descriptions of the originally canopy. City staff recommended further research.
Seale summed up the commission’s sentiments. If it were just the tall native grasses or just the colors, the design might pass, she said.
“It’s sort of all these things together that are creating a really contemporary vibe for this project,” Seale said.
It was clear that the commission wants Lake to emphasize historic restoration and not try too hard to bring the building into the 21st century.
How Blue is Royal Blue?
Last week, Dallas Towers reviewed the trend toward more urban groceries. On Monday, the Landmark Commission looked at the façade that Royal Blue Grocery is proposing for northwest corner of the Mercantile Bank Building at 1800 Main Street and North Ervay Street.
The commission approved Royal Blue proprietor Zac Porter’s request for a metal awning, new storefront windows and the color, but Porter had to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing the company’s preferred blue. The shade in the rendering wasn’t accurate and alarmed commissioners as being too iridescent.
“It is kind of jarring to see that blue on the corner of this building,” Commissioner Allender said.
Porter submitted his Royal Blue business card for the record, but the matter wasn’t settled until the paint code was specified in the motion.
For the record, Royal Blue’s blue is Sherwin Williams 6804, also known as Dignity Blue.