New owner of Dallas Morning News building reveals plans for campus
The new owner of the former Dallas Morning News headquarters in downtown Dallas has big plans for the property that include transforming it into a hotel and entertainment complex.
Located at 508 Young St., the building was purchased in May by DMN Charter Holdings, a Dallas-based real estate entity owned by Ray W. Washburne.
Washburne, who also owns Highland Park Village among other properties, purchased the eight-acre campus for $28 million.
Located across from Union Station, the building has been dubbed the "Rock of Truth" in recent years because of an inscription on the cement facade by George Bannerman Dealey that begins "Build the news upon the rock of truth."
Washburne says he'll save whatever he can, including the building's exterior.
"We are going to keep the existing building and convert it into a 200- to 300-room boutique business hotel, completely saving the exterior character of the building," Washburne told me.
There are actually two buildings. The one in front is the former newspaper building. Another located behind it was home to TXCN, the now-defunct cable news channel that Belo founded in 1999.
As Washburne pointed out, they're very close to the Dallas Convention Center, which has virtually no entertainment district or activities within walking distance.
He wants to give the center a huge asset by creating a thriving district: the hotel, restaurants, possibly a Gilley's or Billy Bob's venue. In other words, a lively, fun place for conventioneers to hang out, just down the street.
"There are no activities at the convention center's front door," he said. "On the back end is the Omni, which is doing very well. Then there is the back end of the convention center, where buses drop people off. It's kind of uninspiring."
Washburne says he is researching the transformation of old newspaper buildings into cool developments around the country, such as the Ritz Carlton Residences and Club in San Francisco, built atop and integrated into the first San Francisco Chronicle building at 609 Market St. I've stayed there; I could live there forever.
New York City has provided plenty of inspiration for Washburne, as he has been touring renovated historic buildings and boutique hotels.
He really likes The Standard Hotel, built atop a former elevated train line in what has become known as High Line in NYC's Meatpacking District. One of the Standard's standard features is a full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, with sweeping views of Manhattan and/or the mighty Hudson River, in every one of the 338 rooms.
Besides High Line, there are Standard Hotels in LA, Hollywood, Miami, and London. How cool would it be to have a Standard in Dallas right here?
Washburne has pretty much ruled out using any part of the structure for commercial office — if anything, it would be a creative office space.
As for the interiors — like any new property owner, he plans to redecorate majorly.
"It wasn't that nice [on the inside]. I thought it would have cool conference rooms or something, but nothing," he says. "It was all ripped out years ago. You know that the facility ran 24/7, it never closed; the carpet is pretty well worn."
Apparently, a mid-1970s Brutalist renovation stripped out the original Art Deco interiors, replacing with a kind of fragmented, bank-interior bland look — at least that's what I thought the few times I was inside.
"All the old beautiful moldings were ripped out by the News as they went from closed offices of the 'Mad Men' era to a big open floor plan," says Washburne. "I wish there was stuff to save on the interior, but we will have to re-create a really cool 1940's Art Deco feel."
The convention center needs more rooms and different kinds of rooms, he says. Whoever stays at his yet-to-be-named, very cool boutique hotel, won't stay at The Omni or the Hyatt.
"Right now, we are assessing what the building is structurally and the acreage," he says. "Actually, the building is kind of confusing. We will be demo-ing interiors this year."
The building came with all of its office furniture intact. "[The Dallas Morning News] went to all brand-new furniture and left everything behind," he says.
If that included any typewriters or CueCats, DMN Holdings might want to hold a tag sale or two. Former employees might want them for the nostalgia.
A version of this story originally was published on CandysDirt.com.