Convention center hotel update: Check out the model we paid for

You have to hand it to the Go Hotel people — they’re not going to let anything like a potential public smackdown stop them from fulfilling their promise to bring a taxpayer-owned convention center hotel to downtown Dallas. Sam Merten with the Observer points out that Thursday’s unveiling of a model of the hotel shows that, public backing or not, they’re going to start building a hotel.

Merten’s story makes a couple of interesting points. One, the people at Matthews Southwest — the builder "we" have selected for this project — are being realistic about what’s going on. Jack Matthews told Merten that by the time a May referendum on the project comes around, at most about $10 million will have been spent readying the site, working up plans and demolishing a parking structure already there (I used to park in that two-story structure when going to Mavs games at Reunion Arena). So for all of the bluster about "pushing forward" with the hotel, no matter what happens with the referendum, Matthews’ comment shows this is a pretty empty statement.

Leaving another $10 million on the table, assuming the referendum passes, is a drop in the bucket for this $550 million-plus deal.
Second, the pictures of the model itself, along with the computer renderings published in the Observer, are pretty anti-climactic. For a monstrous hotel that Mayor Tom Leppert bragged would and should be iconic, this one seems pretty straight-forward. No stunning visual architecture (like nearby City Hall, for example). No cutting-edge futuristic design. No throw-back to anything else downtown, either. It’s just a big, tall glass-sheathed building. (If you really want to see something iconic, check out this link on Matthews’ website; it’s a picture of a 58-story project the company is building in Canada.)

I guess to a builder like Leppert, who was merely paid to build things in his past career rather than actually designing them, this thing is iconic. I just don’t see it, though. For $550 million, I expected something blow-away cool, and this just isn’t it. Maybe we need to bring Calatrava in on this deal, too…


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