The state of Texas is seeking buyers for the abandoned Dawson State Jail. It sits on prime downtown Dallas real estate at 106 West Commerce Street between Riverfront Boulevard and the Trinity River.
A huge new park is planned inside the river levees just west of the building.
Potential buyer Merilee Kick visited the site Friday and thinks it could be a great place to relocate her Carrollton-based distillery, Southern Champion.
"I think it would be a great thing for the city of Dallas, and it would be really cool for helping our business as well," she said. "It's different. It's history."
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The Dallas County Jail is still right across Commerce Street, and the Dawson building is still equipped with heavy steel doors, cells and bunks.
But Kick views the jail space as a possible attraction for visitors on tours if her distillery relocates there. She said the roof would offer tremendous views of the city.
"The whole top floor could be a sky bar. It would be really cool," Kick said.
The state quit housing prisoners at the Dawson Jail in 2013, and since then several ideas for reuse have been suggested, including a shelter for homeless people.
Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston supported the shelter idea.
"What we have proposed to do was a 24-months lease to use about three floors of the building for an intermediate term shelter so we could draw down the spike in homelessness that we've seen," Kingston said. "Our downtown facilities are currently way over capacity."
Kingston said state officials never returned calls about the idea and some leaders strongly opposed the shelter option after getting the jail closed.
Now the state has put the abandoned place up for sale to private buyers, which would put the valuable site on the taxroll.
"If some really creative real estate developer can find a way to turn this into a productive asset, that is by far the best thing," Kingston said.
Agent Stan McClure, with CBRE Real Estate, is marketing the property.
"We've reached out to public storage companies. Some people have looked at it from the point of redeveloping into multifamily. Others have looked at it just from an investment standpoint," McClure said.
The firm will accept the best offer until the end of the June.