One year after Mayor Tom Leppert and the pro hotel'ers narrow victory at the polls over Harlan Crow and the anti-hotel folks, the Dallas Omni Convention Center Hotel is approximately half its height and construction is "on time and on budget," according to developer Jack Matthews.
"I can't tell you how many times I've had people tell me they think we're ahead of schedule," Matthews tells Unfair Park. "We're on schedule, which I like, but this is a big beast."
Matthews says he's constantly revisiting the February 12, 2012, date by which the hotel is contractually stipulated to be completed. Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez says Matthews has been resistant to commit to an earlier date, but he won't be surprised if Matthews beats it.
When we last spoke with Matthews in January regarding his ancillary development plans, he told us about an office building that could materialize. His most recent meeting about the issue was the week before last, and he describes the progress as "real discussions."
"We're trying to do a whole bunch of things at once," he says. "I don't want to make any announcements right now."
While Matthews claims that he's working on "more than a dozen different situations," when asked if any of those are close to becoming reality, he said, "Not really."
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Gonzalez says Matthews hasn't been issued a new deadline for his ancillary plans, which were originally due in June 2009 before they were postponed indefinitely. He stresses that Matthews has developed some preliminary plans for surrounding development; Matthews has visited with folks at the convention center about the possible use of the Dallas Convention Center; and interest amounts to "more than just kicking tires." However, he notes that any traction has been during "one of the worst times" in terms of people having the ability to finance such endeavors.
Since Gonzalez and the city council sold ancillary development as a key component to building a publicly owned hotel, we asked him if he's concerned about the lack of progress.
"I guess you'd have to say we wish we were in a different market than we are to be going through this, but that's just the way it is," he says. "We do know that there is a great deal of excitement as measured against that backdrop because of the fact that the hotel is doing in, so there are things that are going to be developed there. There's no question. What level of intensity and how much we can get exactly when, that may have to shift, but maybe not. We're more challenged than we would have liked to have been, but we've got a good developer who's working at it."
Gonzalez says the city has been conservative as it has been spending dough, although a few enhancements have been added, including better showers in some rooms. And what about the AstroTurf expenditure that we noticed on the agenda a while back? He says that's to install on the ballroom's roof because that will be the view for many of those with rooms on the fifth floor.