For more than 50 years, Elm Place tower has stood as one of Dallas’ most iconic landmarks.
The 52-story tower was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River when it was built in 1965. The 1.5-million-square-foot-office is the only building in downtown that spans a whole city block on four sides. And the marble that forms the base of the building was imported from Marathon, Greece.
But the recession took a toll on the tower as it sat empty for six years, and its future was uncertain when it went into foreclosure.
Enter Maxwell Drever, chairman of Drever Capital Management, who came armed with a 21st-century vision and $50 million in tax-increment financing from the city of Dallas.
Thanks to Drever, the old black and white office building, which previously housed First National Bank and oil tycoon H.L. Hunt, will find new life with hundreds of luxury apartments, a hotel and ground-floor restaurants and retail.
Construction crews are working 24 hours a day, six days a week to demolish the interior and prepare it for modern finishes. The mixed-use tower is expected to be completed by August 2018.
“We took the building back to the steel and concrete,” said Bryan Dorsey, co-developer of the property. “It will be 100 percent brand new when we finish it.”
The building will be renamed The Drever, to honor the man who led its renaissance—and promises to finish construction ahead of schedule.
“We were working on this property before we closed on escrow,” Drever said.
Floor by floor
The Drever fronts four downtown streets: Field Street, Elm Street, Akard Street and Pacific Avenue.
CBRE is seeking the tenants for the street-level restaurants and retail, including two-high end eateries. No official announcements have been made yet.
“It will be just a landmark location for a restaurant,” said Jack Gosnell, senior vice president with CBRE Urban in Dallas. “We’re in an active search for those restaurants.”
The building also has easy access to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit train line with Akard Station on the north side of the building. Drever said he plans several fast casual restaurants along Pacific Avenue to appeal to commuters.
There will be separate entrances for the restaurants, hotel, apartments and other uses in the tower, which has 27 elevators.
The developers are also pursuing a grocery store concept for the ground floor, to support residents who live in that building and others downtown.
Other features include resident parking on floors six through eight, plus a swimming pool, bar and dog park for hotel guests and residents on floors nine and ten.
The 11th through 21st floors will be a hotel and hospitality area with 215 rooms. No hotel brand has been signed yet.
Meanwhile, floors 22 through 48 will house 320 apartments starting at $1,000 for the smallest unit up to $4,000 a month for an upper- floor penthouse. The average size will be 1,100 square feet.
The apartments are expected to capitalize on the success other urban have had in downtown and nearby Uptown Dallas.
Rents have gone up 1.5 percent in the downtown/Uptown submarket in the last 12 months with the average rent now more than $1,700 a month, according to MPF Research, which tracks multi-family trends. Higher rents haven’t slowed demand—occupancy rates were at 95.2 percent in the third quarter, according to MPF.
Residents who live in the tower will have access to all the hotel amenities, including room service and pet concierge.
“We want to be very pet-friendly to the residents of the building and that goes for the hotel guests,” Gosnell said.
The 49th floor—the former Dallas Petroleum Club—will have a restaurant big enough to seat 500 people, to be operated by the hotel brand, while the 50th floor will be the observation deck with floor-to-ceiling windows showing a 360-degree view of the Dallas skyline. The goal is to mimic the success of Chicago’s John Hancock Center.
The remake of The Drever will cost more than $300 million with $50 million coming from Dallas’ tax increment financing district.
Much of the investment for The Drever project came from TIGER 21 members. TIGER 21 (The Investment Group for Enhanced Results in the 21st Century) has more than 400 members including Wall Street executives, CEOs and real estate experts.
Chris Ryan, the chair of TIGER 21 in Dallas, said Drever has a long history of success in the North Texas rental market and expects this latest investment to continue that trend.
He envisions The Drever becoming the future Times Square of Dallas.
“He’s revitalizing what has been one of the most iconic buildings in the history of Dallas,” Ryan said. “He’s also creating a phenomenal multi-use facility with the hotel, the restaurants and the retail space. I think he’s honoring the legacy and the history of the building itself and I think he’s creating quite a platform by which to continue building on the Drever name.”