Ten years since it was last refurbished, Hotel Lawrence, a historic hotel in downtown Dallas, is slated for another facelift. New owner Mehul Patel, who comes from a hotel family, bought the property in August. He plans to gut the building and re-create it as plush lodging for business travelers.
"We're basically going for upper mid-tier," Patel says. "We haven't made a decision whether to brand it or keep it a boutique flavor, but we're definitely thinking high end. We feel like there isn't anything like that for the West End area."
That includes increasing the room sizes — "especially the bathrooms," Patel says. "From top to bottom, we're going back down to the concrete walls and move forward."
"We're basically going for upper mid-tier," says new owner Mehul Patel. "We feel like there isn't anything like that for the West End area."
Patel is talking to several hotel chains about branding the property. Any partner will have a say in the nature of the Lawrence's amenities, but Patel plans a level of services higher than an average conference hotel, such as the nearby Omni or Hyatt. It is too soon for him to say whether the property will be operational during renovations.
Currently the Lawrence markets itself as a mid-level "European-style boutique hotel" and charges $142 and $182 per night. According to the hotel's website, all rooms come with an "artistically inspired" bath with body wash bar, 230-count sheets, and warm cookies and cold milk.
Interior demolition will include an upgrade to the security and fire sprinkler systems, and it is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2013. One reason for the delay: The place is booked solid during the weekend of the November 22 anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.
According to newspaper reports, the Scott Hotel was built in 1925 by president of the Texas Produce Company and property developer Michael Angelo Genaro and his sons John and Lawrence, to take advantage of passengers arriving at Union Station. Lawrence died in 1932; the hotel was renamed Hotel Lawrence in the late 1930s.
The building's exterior of light brick and stone ornamentation was designed by architect Otto Lang and his partner, Frank Witchell, who also did Exposition Hall at Fair Park, Sanger Brothers Department Store (now Dallas Community College), Highland Park High School, the Jefferson Hotel and the Southland Life Building.
Ownership has changed numerous times, with the hotel operating under several names, including The Bradford and The Paramount. In 2001, Big D Hotel Associates completed a $4 million renovation and renamed it Hotel Lawrence.
Patel purchased the property from TM-Lawrence Hospitality, which is run by Dr. Tariq Mahmood, who also operates a string of hospitals and clinics in small Texas towns. Mahmood is currently under investigation by state health officials and was recently charged with conspiring to overbill the federal government by more than $1 million. Six of his hospitals have been closed this year.
The previous owner's poor record keeping made the purchase a little risky, Patel says. "It was not something that we had ample information on," he says, noting that traditional items like operating costs were nonexistent. "We really had to go with our gut."
Patel owns six hotels, including a Courtyard Marriott in Arkansas and a Motel 6 in Plano. His father, Mehul "Mike" Patel, owns 24 mid-scale properties. Hotel Lawrence is a departure, but Patel liked its downtown location, proximity to American Airlines Center and the Grassy Knoll, and freeway access.
"Our intent is really to bring some of the historic value back to the hotel," he says. "It's in dire need of some TLC."