Investor Who Wants to Buy the Statler Hilton Talks About His Fingers-Crossed Plans

A few minutes ago I spoke with LIG Assets Inc.'s founder Jeff Love, who says, why, at this very moment he's "writing an offer" on the former Statler Hilton, which, we discovered Friday, Love wants to buy and rehab. "The owners should have it today," he says. "Now, I don't know if they're going to accept it or not ..." He laughs. The owner, Hong Kong-based Far East Consortium International Limited, wants between $18 million and $20 million. LIG's offer, he says, "is quite a bit different than what they want." How much different, of course, he would not say.

He did, though, talk about what he wants to do with the former Grand Hotel -- a mixture of "a small hotel, four-bedroom apartments and some smaller one-bedroom dorms," given the fact the building's across the street from the future home of the University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law. That, he says, "is a mixture that's not currently being done downtown." And they would be rental properties. "That's the only way to make the cash flow work," he says.

Love adds that he'd like to bring in at least one "normal" chain restaurant -- something like, oh, a Chili's, say. "It might drive a lot of people down there," he says, because "chains are at least affordable."

Of course, the big question is: Can he afford it? Love says sure, though he'll have to bring in investors. "We don't have the $18 million, but for the price we're willing to buy it, we do have that -- and we'll have it as soon as they're ready to close," Love says, adding that there will be "partners" involved in the project should Far East take his offer. I ask him: Buying it's one thing, but what about the cost of remediation and a makeover? He acknowledges: Yup, then you're talking about upwards of $100 million -- because, after all, there are "concrete walls on every floor, and you know how hard those'll be tearing out? But there are tax credits and TIF money available."

So, then, let's place a call to the city ...

Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the Office of Economic Development, says Unfair Park's call this morning was the first he's heard of Jeff Love or LIG Assets -- or, for that matter, Far East's intentions to do something with the building "within 90 days," as Plano attorney Tom Keen told Unfair Park Friday.

"We would all applaud that," Zavitkovsky says. "We have had  ongoing conversations with them every time they're in town or they have different reps in town. We have not put any kind of a package together. We've been mostly listening, because we haven't received proposals." That includes from LIG, he says. I asked Zavitkovsky what kind of city money is available to someone willing to tackle the Statler, which sits inside the Downtown Connection TIF District.

"I'm not sure what's available," he says. "It would depend upon the proposal. Over the years wee have seen a number of different things proposed for the Statler, many of which didn't make any economic sense. ... So far, the city hasn't received any proposal from anyone, and we've listened and have been generally supportive. It's the only piece on that block that hasn't been redeveloped, so we'd be very receptive to some kind of plan that works. But there have been a number of people who've tackled this -- and we've listened to everybody."

Love say she's working with Architexas on plans for a redo; a message has been left with senior principal Craig Melde. Zavitkovsky says Architexas has indeed worked with several would-be investors in the Statler over the years.

Forthcoming: More on Love's plans to buy and turn the Masonic Temple into a "high-end movie theater." Why forthcoming? Because there's a ... twist.

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