The National Trust for Historic Preservation issued a list on Wednesday of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, a list that they want to serve as a catalyst for the preservation of threatened historic sites around the country.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a privately-funded nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. The group chose their list from nearly 300 sites to highlight 11 once-endangered sites now thriving and contributing to their communities, including the Statler Hilton Hotel in downtown Dallas.
The press release doesn’t point out that the IRS is currently investigating an unusual deal that raised millions to renovate the hotel downtown, according to a Feb. 2017 Dallas Morning News report. Experts say the IRS may be investigating to determine whether the deal with taxpayer money improperly benefited the hotel's developer, Mehrdad Moayedi, instead of the public.
“The Statler Hilton Hotel was a crown jewel of Dallas that will now once again serve as a vibrant center of community life for people in the Metroplex,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The successful transformation of the Statler Hilton is a poster child for the power of the historic tax credit and a significant example of the ways that older and historic buildings can contribute to the vibrancy of their communities.”
The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s press release indicated that The Statler Hilton is currently undergoing a $175 million renovation with plans to include 7,800 square feet of retail space; 19,000 square feet of restaurant space; a 2,200 square-foot hotel bar and 2,900 square feet of meeting space as well as luxury apartments, a Hilton Curio Hotel and two rooftop pools.
The press release also indicates that the preservation efforts would not have been possible without the help of state and federal tax credits. Like some of his other projects, Moayedi received the tax break at a time when the Statler Hilton was millions over budget and missing projected opening deadlines.
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Moayedi is no stranger to receiving tax breaks for his other residential developments known as special districts he’s built all around Dallas and Fort Worth. He's made appearances at city council meetings in places like Flower Mound requesting tax breaks for his various projects. The Observer has covered his deals in depth, including this 2016 piece.
For Moayedi to qualify for a federal tax break, tax-exempt bonds would be needed to pay for projects that are in the public interest. Only a fraction of the money can go to private business. The upside is the developer usually pays lower interest rates on those bonds. Investment adviser Richard Sandow told the Morning News, “I don’t see a legitimate municipal interest. The major beneficiary is the developer, who stands to profit greatly, not the people of Dallas.”
Other locations that made The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list have far easier claims on municipal value than a luxurious, high-end hotel. Those sites include Angel Island Immigration Station in California, Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland; Cathedral of St. Vibiana in California; Governors Island in New York; Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, Nine Mile Canyon in Utah, Penn School in South Carolina, and President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home in Washington, D.C.