It once housed more than 2,000 inmates, now the Dawson State Jail could become a shelter for homeless people living in downtown Dallas.
“There’s kitchen, there’s workout facilities, there’s basketball courts there’s physical therapy, there was doctors and everything in this building,” said developer Mehrdad Moayedi, President of Farmer’s Branch based Centurion American Development Group.
Closed in 2013, the 10-story Dawson State Jail on west Commerce Street has been for sale since June of last year.
Now Moayedi is negotiating with the state to buy the building to convert into a homeless shelter.
“There is no money to be made, this is not a money deal,” said Moayedi. “This is something to give back to downtown real estate market that we’ve benefited from so this is not a money deal.”
Just four months ago, Moayedi’s company reopened the historic Statler Hotel after a $230 million renovation.
Converting the old jail into a shelter would take something in the order of $10 million.
Moayedi said he plans to invest up to $6 million and would seek investors to kick-in another $6 million.
Moayedi envisions enlisting the help of churches, hospitals and volunteers to help run the shelter, which could accommodate 1,000 people.
“They need to stay sober, stay clean and do the things they need toward their goal,” said Moayedi. “If they meet it, then they can have their own individual room to the point that they have a little more privacy and they’re treated with respect so they have an incentive to get better.”
Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston wanted the city to buy the building for a homeless shelter, but said this is even better.
“This is an idea that I thought was really valuable for the public sector to take on because its mental health care and homelessness are our problems,” said Kingston. “But if we can have a private developer go do this without asking us for money, that’s very exciting.”
Moayedi is still negotiating with the state. He’s offered $3.1 million for the building, but state officials want a million more.
The project would need to obtain a special use permit from the City of Dallas.
The Mayor’s office refused comment.