More Details Concerning the Joint Venture That May (or May Not) Lead to Statler's Revival

When last we spoke to Tom Keen, the Plano attorney who counts among his clients the Hong Kong-based owners of the old Statler Hilton downtown, it was one long year ago. And, as far as Keen was concerned back then, Hamsher International just wanted out: "Our preference," he told me, "is to sell." But, clearly, Hamsher found no takers, and the building, which looms over the recently opened Main Street Garden, remains empty, save for some colored paper on the ground floor that shrouds the barren interior.

There was, though, Rudy Bush's story in The News over the weekend concerning a possible "restoration plan" that's been presented to City Hall -- specifically, Mayor Tom Leppert and council member Ron Natinsky. Wrote Bush, Warwick International Hotels -- specifically, its founder, Richard Chiu -- has an interest in "some mix of retail, residential and hotel space," with an emphasis on residential.

Problem was, Rudy didn't actually speak to the owners or Warwick officials or their representatives. (Hamsher International bought the Statler in the early '90s with the intention of undertaking "a complete and major renovation programme" scheduled to commence in, oh, 2000.) Hence, my call to Keen today, who detailed the plans as far as ownership's concerned.

"[Chiu] and the Warwick hotel group have been in contact with the city and the hotel's ownership, and they have discussed a possible joint venture," Keen tells Unfair Park. "Warwick is doing preliminary studies and feasibility studies about what they think the future looks like. I don't think they're as far down the road as the city seems to think, according to the article."

Says Keen, any talk of a Statler do-over is "very preliminary." Warwick, he says, is "doing due diligence" with the intention of "hiring a professional architect or engineer -- or both -- in the first quarter of next year." When asked what kind of studies the hotel's owner or potential partner have conducted thus far, he says, for the most part, they've been reviewing other studies conducted in recent years by would-be buyers.

"But it's not a lot more than that."

Hamsher, he says, has no concrete timeline for development. But Keen says Warwick has a more "defined timeline," and anticipates hiring a company to "do cost studies maybe as soon as January."

Right now, he says, the plan is for a joint venture. But Keen doesn't rule out a possible sale of the Statler -- either to Warwick or a third party that could have the funds and the interest in whatever plan the two companies cook up between now and ... whenever.

"I hope the future does look that rosy," Keen says. But "the unknown is what people are scared of. You don't want to put a lot of money in something you haven't analyzed from all angles. You may have to stay excited for a long time. This won't happen overnight."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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