DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Downtown Dallas may be a good place to invest right now if you’re in international real estate.  But at what cost to taxpayers?   A company based in Turkey wants to restore a downtown landmark if the city will help out.

“I think it’s a very good investment,” says Mukemmel “Mike” Sarimsakci of Polidev International.    He wants to renovate and reopen the old First National Bank Building.  Once the tallest building in Dallas – but now an empty vessel of bygone days – it may get another chance at viability.   “You’re going to see more pedestrians,” predicts Sarimsakci, “More residents, and also office workers in a building that was empty before.”  He envisions retail on the street level, then a dozen floors of office space, and finally 520 apartments and amenities stretching skyward.

Built by famed architect George Dahl, Sarimsakci is receiving one tax break to keep the building historically pure.   But he also wants 30 Million from the City of Dallas for asbestos and environmental abatement.  On Tuesday a council committee recommended he get it from a city tax incentive fund called TIF—Tax Increment Financing.  “It’s a very good investment on the city’s side,” he says, “because they’re going to get their money from the increased property taxes that this building is going to generate.  So I think it’s a very good investment.”

David Glasscock of Colliers International helped broker the sale.  He says Polidev International was looking for places to develop and found Dallas.  “I think the upside is he saw pricings on both the east and west coast, and he saw Dallas as just a ‘rough jewel.’” Glasscock said of Sarimsakci.  “He thought he could take this jewel and remodel and polish it and have an incredible building here….he could buy this property for a fraction of what it would cost overseas or domestically on both the east and west coast.”

Sarimsakci found support Tuesday on the council’s Economic Development Committee, and from other downtown parties.  “Taking this off the rolls as an old office building is going to enhance our occupancy levels in downtown, so it’s an enormous step forward,” says John Crawford of Downtown Dallas, Inc.  Crawford says Dallas has about 5.5 million square feet of vacant office space.  If this one project goes through, it’ll reduce that number by more than 20% by taking it out of the office space category and moving it into residential.

Crawford and Sarimsakci add that residential rental units downtown are 92% occupied, and they anticipate the market will get even more attractive.  The project must be done before Dallas antes up its $30 Million, meaning the city will reimburse him.

The city expects to realize more than that in increased revenue from property taxes and more.  “You’ll see sales tax, you’ll see more jobs being completed in a major project like this so there are a number of areas where you’re going to see an increment enhancement of return on investment.”

Nearby businesses welcome the idea of more foot traffic.  “I get a lot of ‘walk-bys,’ so it’ll increase my business dramatically,” says Tom Pecena of Ahoy Cruises, a cruise ship booking agency, “So I’m doing okay now, but I’ll be better because more people means more business.”

The full council must still approve the deal at its September 28 meeting.  Sarimsakci anticipates the project being done and open for business by the end of 2013.

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