The new owners of the long decaying Statler Hilton Hotel are promising to make Dallas proud of the landmark building again.
"We feel kind of a responsibility to bring it back and do what it did back in the '50s," said Leo Trevino of Ricchi Dallas Investments. "This building to us personally was like the heartbeat of downtown."
Company representatives received cheers from Dallas city leaders at a press conference in front of the hotel Tuesday.
"One of the major hurdles to progress has now today been cleared," Interim Mayor Dwaine Caraway said.
Ricchi Dallas Investments spent more than $17 million to buy the old hotel and the former Dallas Downtown Library building connected to it on Commerce Street between Harwood and St. Paul streets.
The hotel has been vacant for 10 years, and city officials accused the prior owners of neglect for allowing dangerous code violations and refusing to make substantial repairs.
After Tuesday’s press conference, reporters and city officials were allowed to tour the lobby, mezzanine and banquet halls.
The place is still filled with old serving equipment and furniture that brings back memories.
"My uncle on my mom's side worked here for many, many years," Dallas Councilwoman Pauline Medrano said.
"I can remember so many great functions and events and conventions," Caraway said.
The vacant hotel sits on the south side of the new Main Street Garden Park.
"Especially with this new park here, it's been such an eyesore for so many years," said downtown resident Joel Aguillar as he and his wife played with their young child in the park.
The other three sides of the park include the renovated Merchantile Bank Building, which is now upscale apartments, a former department store that is now a downtown campus for several universities and the Old City Hall building, which will soon become the UNT Law School.
"These people said 'tear it down.' These people said, 'Oh, don't touch it. It's got a great façade. It's got a great history,'" Natinsky said.
Final plans from the new owners are not complete but Trevino said the landmark façade will be preserved while the interior is completely renovated.
"We're going to do what's right for the building," Trevino said.
He said the finished product could include a combination of hotel rooms, apartments or condominiums and restaurants, retail and entertainment attractions.
Carrie Aguillar said residents are hoping for more retail stores and entertainment -- "more than just bars and hotels" -- that can attract people to downtown Dallas.
Leo Trevino said his company will seek city tax breaks like most other downtown projects have received. But he also said Ricchi Dallas Investments is making a substantial commitment of its own that other potential buyers have declined to make because he believes downtown Dallas is on the verge of a real estate boom.
"We believe that downtown is in a renaissance," he said.
Ricchi Dallas Investments is already working on the renovation of the former LTV Tower building at 1600 Pacific downtown, so city officials say they are confident the company will follow through on its promises for the Statler Hilton.