At Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel's Topping Out Ceremony, Mayor Leppert Declares: "This Isn't the Dallas of J.R. Anymore"

It seems like only yesterday that we were at the parking lot in front of the Dallas Convention Center to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new city-owned hotel, where Mayor Tom Leppert donned a bellhop's hat and twice shoveled dirt into a hole before a large "D" was pulled out of that hole. But, sure enough, it was time for another milestone late Thursday afternoon as Leppert and others cheered the hotel's "topping out," which means all of the concrete has been poured and the 23-story building has reached its maximum height.

This time, everyone on hand signed their names to a steel beam with a Norwegian pine tree attached to it, and then it was hoisted to the top of the hotel.

"Placing that evergreen there is supposed to symbolize growth and luck for everyone who enters our doors in the future," explained Ed Netzhammer, regional vice president and general manager of the Omni Dallas Hotel.

Leppert, introduced by Netzhammer as "the city's best salesperson," stressed that the project had nothing to do with the hotel and everything to do with the economy and "providing opportunities for our people." He gave credit to his city council colleagues, calling up those on hand: Ron Natinsky, Tennell Atkins, Steve Salazar, Jerry Allen, Sheffie Kadane, Dave Neumann and Ann Margolin. (Carolyn Davis arrived late.)

When mentioning Neumann, the mayor said he chairs the city's Trinity River Corridor Project Committee, "which is falling right in line," drawing a few laughs from the crowd. Leppert briefly touched on the transformation of the Arts District, progress of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and his recent trade mission to Europe, where he said the image of Dallas is "a couple of decades old."

"The bottom line is, this isn't the Dallas of J.R. anymore," he said.

After brief comments from Netzhammer, Leppert and new Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau chair Ty Sanders, who touted the 31 citywide conventions currently booked compared to the 14 booked in May 2009, there was a reception on the third floor -- featuring Mexican and Asian cuisine, watermelon Mojitos, margaritas and other alcoholic beverages -- followed by tours of the top floor and fourth floor, which includes the pool area with a fantastic view of downtown. (Check out our slide show.)

Most of the inside is still a skeleton: As Natkinsky said, "Those are some nice copper pipes."

Natinsky also delivered the line of the day as Netzhammer said during the tour that the sports bar will be called "The Owners Box," and Natkinsky asked, "Is that named after us?" referring to the city of Dallas.

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