Developer Demonstrates Progress While Lining Up Drever Money

Former First National Bank Building is last vacant downtown high-rise

Amid questions about financing for the long-awaited Dallas First National Bank Building renovation, the developer offered an exclusive look Monday at the progress being made on marble restoration.

The 50-story Elm Street building between Akard and Field streets is the last major vacant downtown high rise.

With a $50 million city tax increment financing grant promised at completion, Drever Capital Management had pledged to finish the building by 2018. The money would come from the future incremental increase in tax value on the property. The company last month asked a city agency for a one-year extension on the deal to finish in 2019.

"We are right at tail end of getting everything going from the financing stand point and getting this work going full speed," said Steve McCoy, president of Drever Construction.

Dallas Councilman Philip Kingston, whose district covers downtown, said that has been the story since 2012.

"It's 2017 today," Kingston said. "The city isn't at financial risk because of the way we structured the TIF award insulates us. We don't pay until they actually produce the increment. But the risk is having the thing sit vacant longer, and that's what we want to avoid."

Removing 106,000 square feet of Greek marble cladding on the building is a big step in renovation. The marble is gray, and many pieces are loose.

A contractor called HyComb is using a special process that doubles the pieces of marble for return to the building. The company glues aluminum honeycomb sections to each side of the slabs and then cuts the slabs in half.

"What that yields is a double yield of every piece of stone we take off the building," said HyComb representative Daniel Slain. "We first tested the stone that we are taking off to make sure that it still has the integrity to go back on. And not only does it have the integrity, it was within a couple percentage points of the new marble coming out of the quarry. So it's a fantastic stone."

The slabs must be shipped to HyComb factories in Florida and China for cutting. The job will take about a year.

"It will be almost pearl white when it comes out. This building will be just phenomenal," McCoy said.

The Drever is to include 324 apartments, 218 hotel rooms with the Thompson Hotel brand, a ninth-floor amenity deck with swimming, and ground floor restaurants and retail.

"We've watched it since they started, been wondering why it's taken so long," said Lamart Murdock, who walked past the building Monday on his lunch break with Rosie Mercado.

They worked in the First National Bank Building for many years before it closed eight years ago.

"It was a good old building in its time," Mercado said.

Murdock was pleased to learn about the marble reclamation work and promises of financing.

"Seems like they need to get something done with it so it won't be an eyesore," he said.

Other formerly vacant Dallas downtown high-rises have been renovated or are further along in renovation.

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