A Friend of Unfair Park tipped us off earlier today: Dallas County property records reveal that the old Statler Hilton has indeed been sold; so too its next-door neighbor, the former Dallas Public Library. And according to the deed sale documents, both were purchased by none other than the Ricchi Investment Group out of San Antonio -- which happens to be the very same group, headed by Leobardo Trevino, responsible for turning the old LTV Tower into the Grand Ricchi Dallas, about which city officials only have the nicest things to say.
Funny thing: I'd spoken with Tom Keen, Hamsher's Plano attorney, the very day the deed docs were signed -- one week ago Monday, February 21. At that point, Keen wouldn't comment on rumors something was about to happen with the property; all he'd say was that it was looking good and that "I think we're further along this time than we have been in the past." The docs were sent to the county on Friday. (While I was spending the afternoon reporting this story, I see Rudy got hold of some docs -- from Ron Natinsky, if I read my blog items correctly -- hinting at Trevino's plans for the Statler.)
"We're immediately going to clean it up so it's not an eyesore," Trevino tells Unfair Park. In the next few days, he says, he'll begin talking to local and state preservationists about his plans, which will include residential, retail -- and, word is, assisted living.
"But right now," he says, "the plans are to clean it up and restore the exterior and make it nice. We'll gut it and take it down to the concrete like we did with 1600 Pacific. But our plans are to restore it to the original and make it look like it did in 1956. We love the property. It took us seven months of negotiations, but we finally got it. We started work two weeks ago and can't wait to get it cleaned up and back and shape."
When I finally spoke to Keen this afternoon, I told him: "You guys were really far along, weren't you?" To which he responded, "There you go."
Keen didn't have much to add, except that his clients and Trevino have "been talking since last summer" about purchasing the properties. He says Trevino approached him. When asked about Natinsky's involvement, per Rudy's item, he said, "I'm not gonna comment on that."
City officials say, however, that Natinsky played a major role in the deal; so too Mayor Tom Leppert.
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Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the city's Office of Economic Development, says he "knew [Trevino] has an interest" in the Statler and library, but that he doesn't know any specifics about his intentions.
"But I will say this: Leobardo has not approached the city relative to any specific deal," he tells Unfair Park. "We have not had a conversation about that. That doesn't mean we wouldn't entertain it. And the other thing I would say is he's had a good game plan and has gone about the renovation of 1600 [Pacific] in a very responsible way and has done everything he's said he was going to do. And this is a very big priority for us -- it's the last building around Main Street Garden that needs redevelopment around it. It's great news."
John Crawford, president and CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc., says he hasn't been officially informed of the sale but was aware it was possible. And he's thrilled, of course, if only because he'll stop being asked about the Statler -- which, he says, "is the first thing anybody asks when we discuss downtown."
"This sends a huge message," Crawford says. "Over the last two years we've looked at so many different deals, as you know, and we've always had at any given time a number of deals in play, and we've gotten extremely close a number of times. But until I see the whites of their eyes, I won't start rejoicing and popping the Champagne. But if it's the case, I am thrilled. It's a wonderful step and completes the important redevelopment around Main Street Garden."