DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It was one of Conrad Hilton’s earliest and most prized successes: The Statler Hilton Hotel, long a landmark on Commerce Street at the eastern end of Downtown Dallas.
But it’s been closed down for a decade, considered an eyesore. Now, a San Antonio firm wants to restore the icon to its former glory.
“It was contemporary for its time but it is very classic,” said UNT Dallas graduate student Suzanne Larkin, as she bought her lunch at the park between the hotel and her classroom.
The Statler Hilton was a marvel when it opened in 1956: 21-inch TVs in all of its 1001 rooms; a heliport. Today, some of the rooms appear stuck in the ’50s.
It nearly faced the wrecking ball.
But now comes Ricchi Investments, which wants to renovate the inside while maintaining its Mid-Century modernism exterior.
“We’re very happy about the Statler Hilton,” said CEO Leo Trevino at a mid-afternoon news conference formalizing announcement of the sale. “We feel a responsibility to bring it back like the ’50s.”
The developer has also purchased the old Dallas Library adjacent to the Statler and will work it into the renovation plans.
The commitment answers prayers both for preservationists and those who want economic development in the east end of downtown.
“It’s important for downtown, it’s important for Dallas, and the reality is it’s going to allow for more development for downtown,” said John Crawford, CEO of Downtown Dallas, Inc. “So to see a re-development going on down here – I think this is going to be another arrow in the quiver of downtown that things – that all the right decisions are being made that everybody’s looking for.”
The Statler news would complete a 360-degree renaissance in Dallas.
The Mercantile building has been reclaimed for residential housing. The old Titche’s Department Store is now the home of UNT-Dallas. The former Municipal Building is the future home of the UNT Law School. And now, the Statler Hilton.
In baseball parlance, Dallas has hit for the cycle.
It’s also good news for people who live and work or go to school downtown.
“I think it would bring a lot more ‘community’ feel to the area,” downtown resident Abbey Dewey said as she shared lunch with her friend Matthew Roney. “I think that’s a great idea. I think in, like, five to 10 years it’ll have a lot different feel to it with a lot more people living here.”
Larkin added her approval of the idea. “It’s sad to see a vacant building and when it comes to life you sort of bring new culture into the area.”
Crawford said it feels like it’s helping fulfill a promise made to downtown.
“If you look back six, seven, eight years ago, many things that were kind of vision in some peoples’ minds? Most of those things are now reality. This is kind of frosting on the cake,” he said.