Jack Matthews Hints at His Vision for the City's Convention Center Hotel

For all those pro-hotel peeps convinced I can't find anything positive about the city's convention center hotel project, clearly you missed my post applauding the surprise selection of Matthews Southwest as the developer of the project back in June. Heck, even the Build the Hotel committee has it posted on its Web site.

And while I still think the city is making the best of a bad situation by using Matthews as the developer, I'm extremely concerned that the council is moving forward on the hotel without knowing what the ancillary development plan will look like, which I touched on briefly last month. As mentioned here a few months ago, Matthews has until June to submit his proposal to the council, but that didn't stop us from probing Jack Matthews about what he's planning to build around the hotel.

One of the major selling points for the hotel project was that it would spur surrounding development, and Matthews was selected based largely on his plan to supplement the hotel with such development, which will include an entertainment venue and residential component. Originally, Matthews told us he was hoping to find $100 million in equity for the ancillary plan, but now he says it's down to $80 million.

Several meetings are planned for January, Matthews says, as he continues to work with companies such as AEG regarding the entertainment possibilities. He also says he has been looking at three convention cities to find out what has been successful in other places. Matthews wouldn't reveal which cities he has been visiting, only telling us that Las Vegas wasn't one of them. "I'd hate to give the flavor of it away."

He did say two of the cities offered "brand-new, happening things," while the other has "a unique thing" that would tie into "a piece we already have here." Matthews says he's trying to find the balance of finding developments that would appeal both to locals and conventioneers, along with offering staying power.

"If you do a restaurant and a bar, those things usually work for three, four or five years until you have to turn them around," he says. "The trick is to get some pieces you don't need to turn, and that's what we're trying to do."

Matthews says the scope of the residential component is still being determined, but he hopes to build as much as possible to support the surrounding development. The design will likely be in the form of towers, he says, and he's negotiating with the city on how it can connect some of the downtown assets. "The big trick in Dallas is you have so many things going on," he says, "but they're not connected to each other."

Matthews stresses that he hasn't forgotten about the ancillary development, but investors need to see that the hotel will be built before making firm commitments. He says there is no rush because while the hotel will be completed a little less than three years from today (assuming construction begins as planned April 1 and the May 9 referendum fails), the surrounding development can be built in half the time.

Construction on the hotel is indeed to begin on April Fool's Day, Matthews confirms, and he says he will begin testing the site in March. When asked if the parking structure would be demolished prior to April, Matthews says "it may happen earlier." --Sam Merten

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