Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dallas' Santa Fe Trail already attracting cyclists, pedestrians

The first phase of the Santa Fe Trail, a pedestrian-bike path that stretches from Deep Ellum to the Lakewood area, is just weeks from officially opening. But eager commuters and families who live along the route are already using the new path.

"There are tons of users," said Annie Melton, who lives in Mount Auburn and bikes to her business in Deep Ellum. "I see families, blue-collar commuters, mothers with strollers and mothers pushing wheelchairs. I see elderly and children on their scooters and students walking to school."

The Santa Fe Trail has been five years in the making; planning started in 2004. The first phase is a paved portion from Hill Avenue in Deep Ellum to Glasgow Drive near Randall Park.

David Recht, the city's project manager, said the target opening date is June 15, but first he plans a "punch list walk-through" with the contractor to identify items that need to be fixed, such as cracked concrete or graffiti. Once that work is completed, he'll sign off with the contractor, and the trail will open.

Recht met Tuesday with the nonprofit volunteer Friends of the Santa Fe Trail to provide an update.

"It's been a challenge to build a trail in a heavily urbanized area," Recht said. "We discovered at some point that someone was drag racing on it and that cars were driving on it. We started putting up 5-foot bollards to keep the cars out. That will be a maintenance issue."

At the Deep Ellum end, the next stage will be to build extensions to Baylor Medical Center and to Fair Park.

Currently, the paved part of the Santa Fe Trail ends at Hill Avenue, but it will go a half-block further to a T-stop at the tracks for the new DART light-rail Green Line. Users will be able to follow the tracks to the Baylor station, where commuters can hop a train to reach their destination. Or, they can take the opposite direction to visit Fair Park, cutting under Interstate 30 on the way.

Recht said this portion will be a 12-foot-wide concrete trail adjacent to the rail but separated by the fence. He said he's concerned about funding this portion since the city is talking about budget cuts.

"We have a consultant working on design, and they're going to be finishing design by about the end of the year," he said. "We anticipate starting construction in 2010."

The trail won't cross the rail line because it's too expensive to tunnel under the tracks. "Primarily we felt we could get better value for our construction trail by paralleling DART," he said.

The other end of the paved trail ends at Woodrow Wilson High School, and that's where the next phase begins. That phase will take the trail from Glasgow to the south end of White Rock Lake.

Recht said the call for bids will go out June 9, with plans to start work in August. This portion will involve replacing the bridge over Garland Road.

Representatives from the Friends group said they've been using the new paved trail.

"We have some great on-street access from Lakewood," said Greg Shelton. "Or if you live downtown and want to go to Matt's [Rancho Martinez] in Lakewood or go on to the lake or the Arboretum, you can take the trail."

Chris Angarola, a Gastonwood resident, said: "It's finally becoming a reality. I can't tell you how excited I am to be able to get out of the car with the kids and go to the lake. And the kids will be able to use it to get to school."

The trail also goes through some untidy neighborhoods, and users have reported trash and stray dogs. Code enforcement staffers are putting up notices at some of the businesses that line the trail.

Recht said the only illegal activity he has seen is graffiti and vandalism, and that could be a continuing maintenance issue.

And safety issues could be a matter of perception.

"In some ways," Shelton said, "this will be better than the Katy Trail because when you're on the Katy Trail, you're there alone with whoever else is on the trail. But this has houses along the trail, and people are out there. You're not alone."

By NANCY VISSER / The Dallas Morning News

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dallas Morning News reporter Dave Levinthal to become director at Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.

DALLAS — A note from Dave Levinthal, whose reporting on Dallas City Hall has been such a bright spot for the Dallas Morning News:

"Actually got a job offer today - and took it. I'll be a director at the Center for Responsive Politics, the government watchdog folks who run I'll run their journalism shop, blog, write, be spokesman and otherwise cause trouble."

UPDATE: He's leaving on July 3, he told Robert.
By Teresa Gubbins

D/FW picks Michigan developer

Airport’s mixed-use effort will carry $250M tax value
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport officials have selected Southfield, Mich.-based Redico to be the master developer for a 1.5 million-square-foot mixed-use project on airport property. As planned, it will have office, restaurant and retail space to go along with two hotels. Collectively, the development could employ more than 2,700 people.

The concept plan for Southgate Plaza calls for 60,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 320,000 square feet of office space, a 300-room full-service hotel and a 120-room limited-service hotel, said John Brookby, assistant vice president of commercial development at the airport.

Airport officials and Redico declined to give the project cost or even an estimate, saying too many specifics have yet to be ironed out. Airport projections available from public documents, however, estimate Southgate will add more than $250 million in value to local tax rolls.

Southgate Plaza is planned on a 33-acre piece of vacant land in Euless on the northeast corner of International Parkway and Rental Car Drive. The development is next to and will be integrated with the airport’s rental car facility, and a shuttle-bus system will connect Southgate Plaza with the airport’s terminals.

Dallas Business Journal - by Bill Hethcock Staff writer

Jon Altschuler to open his own real estate services firm

After working for big Dallas real estate firms for nearly 15 years, well-known executive Jon Altschuler is striking out on his own.

He plans to leave Stream Realty Partners, where he's the Dallas president, at the end of the month to start his own real estate services firm here. It will be called Altschuler and Co., but so far it's just him.

"I'm going to build on the strengths I have developed – closing high-profile, office leasing transactions and building the careers of those who work alongside me," said Altschuler, 37. "I'm following an example that's been set for me."

Altschuler was hired by Stream founders Lee Belland and Mike McVean in 2001. Belland and McVean also gave Altschuler his first real estate job, with Trammell Crow Co. in 1995. He left that job in 1999 to earn a master's in business administration from the University of California, Berkeley.

"We have an unusual mix of being heartbroken and proud," McVean said. "We hired him almost straight out of college. Jon's striking out on his own, and we feel like he's ready for that as much as we hate to see him go."

This year has spawned other real estate firms aiming to profit from the property market downturn. Altschuler also sees opportunity in the recession and beyond.

"My goal is for this company to become a powerhouse, but that won't happen tomorrow or next week or in a year," he said. The Dallas native plans to finance his startup with savings and seek outside capital to expand and for investment deals.

At Stream, Altschuler began as a leasing agent and rose through the ranks. He increased Stream's Class A office portfolio six-fold to more than 11 million square feet in the last five years.

By SHERYL JEAN / The Dallas Morning News

TCC Puts Focus on Distressed Assets

DALLAS-Trammell Crow Co. has kicked its involvement with distressed real estate up a notch, with plans to acquire and manage more troubled assets during the next two to three years. To that end, the Dallas-headquartered company hired David Stahl as vice president to help coordinate the effort.

Trammell Crow senior managing director J.D. Dell tells that the company had started a program in 2005 that targeted potential value-add and distressed asset opportunities. Current market conditions, however, dictated that someone with more experience in the troubled property category be brought on board.

"We had bought what I considered to be assets of consistent type and quality that were in special situations," Dell says. "And those are the types of assets that Dave has specialized in during the past 15 years of his career."

Prior to joining TCC, Stahl was senior vice president of acquisitions and director of asset management with Lone Star Funds/Hudson Advisors. Stahl also worked for GE Capital Realty Group as a portfolio manager and was employed by Lomas Financial Corp., where he developed commercial and residential land projects.

Stahl tells that the TCC strategy for targeting the troubled assets is "buy, fix, then ultimately sell the asset." He adds that there is a "tremendous amount of volume in the pipeline" and the company is getting geared up to begin the underwriting process.

As to the types of assets being targeted, Dell acknowledges the company will examine all property types as well as medical office buildings and student housing. The targets are quality properties that will recover faster when the economy gets better. However, Dell says TCC isn't ruling out value-add potential. With the company's network of property managers and brokers, he points out, there is synergy there to fill buildings and stabilize them.

As for where these buildings should be, "we'll focus on those markets where we have a significant presence with our offices," Dell adds.
By Amy Wolff Sorter with

Monday, May 18, 2009

Duke Realty named developer of the year

Duke Realty Corp., an Indiana commercial builder with multiple projects in the Dallas area, has been selected developer of the year by the Dallas chapter of commercial real estate development group NAIOP.

Duke has operations in 20 major U.S. markets.

Previous winners of the local award include developers Granite Properties and Hillwood.

Duke Realty Corp., an Indiana commercial builder with multiple projects in the Dallas area, has been selected developer of the year by the Dallas chapter of commercial real estate development group NAIOP.

Duke has operations in 20 major U.S. markets.

Previous winners of the local award include developers Granite Properties and Hillwood.

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Stoneleigh condo developer forced into bankruptcy

The developer of the Heritage at the Stoneleigh Dallas, a marquee luxury residential developments in Dallas’ Uptown area, has been forced into involuntary bankruptcy protection by five of its creditors.

AP-Prescott Stoneleigh Residences LP owes $4.7 million primarily to Turner Construction Co. and it subcontractors for work on the tower located on Maple Avenue.

The adjacent Stoneleigh Hotel is not part of the involuntary filing.

Work stopped on the condominium project last summer with about 10 stories of 22 planned completed.

Similar high-end projects have struggled as the recession dried up buyers for the condos that were prices as high as $3 million.

The Dallas Morning News

Friday, May 15, 2009

New loans for commercial properties plunge 70%

There's no sign of a thaw in the frozen credit markets. If anything, the situation is getting worse for the real estate business.

The number of new loans for commercial properties plunged 70 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Tuesday. And nationwide mortgage originations for the quarter were down 26 percent from the end of 2008.

"In the first quarter of 2009, we saw the effects of the continued recession, coupled with little demand from borrowers and a constrained supply from lenders as a result of the credit crunch," Jamie Woodwell, a Mortgage Bankers Association researcher, said in the report.

A lack of lending for commercial real estate deals has put the brakes on most new projects in the Dallas area and made it almost impossible for investors to finance purchases of offices, shopping centers, warehouses, hotels, apartments and other buildings.

Nationwide, the biggest drop in funding – 88 percent – was for hotels. Lending through mortgage-backed securities fell 96 percent from a year ago and bank loans for commercial real estate slid 80 percent, the trade group said.
By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Credit in deep freeze in commercial real estate

There's no sign of a thaw in the frozen credit markets. If anything, the situation is getting worse for the real estate business.

The number of new loans for commercial properties plunged 70 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Tuesday. And nationwide mortgage originations for the quarter were down 26 percent from the end of 2008.

"In the first quarter of 2009, we saw the effects of the continued recession, coupled with little demand from borrowers and a constrained supply from lenders as a result of the credit crunch," Jamie Woodwell, a Mortgage Bankers Association researcher, said in the report.

A lack of lending for commercial real estate deals has put the brakes on most new projects in the Dallas area and made it almost impossible for investors to finance purchases of offices, shopping centers, warehouses, hotels, apartments and other buildings.

Nationwide, the biggest drop in funding – 88 percent – was for hotels. Lending through mortgage-backed securities fell 96 percent from a year ago and bank loans for commercial real estate slid 80 percent, the trade group said.
By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Equity Partner's $154M Defies Market

DALLAS-When BremnerDuke announced last fall it would start a $350 million project to create a dedicated cancer hospital on the Baylor University campus, no one foresaw the capital markets' crash and burn. In spite of the resulting ruin, however, Northwest Mutual kicked in $154 million of equity to ensure the construction launch later this year.

"To Northwestern's credit, they didn't waver on this, even in the face of the most difficult capital market I've ever seen," comments Jeffrey J. Cooper, executive managing director of Savills, LLC, the New York City-headquartered company that represented BremnerDuke in its efforts to find a capital partner. He tells that, in fact, Northwestern Mutual was ready to go as soon as possible. "The only delay was that the project got larger," he adds. "The hospital decided to add an extra floor and there was some movement around of tenancy and other issues with architectural and engineering due to the change."

Cooper says Savills received a variety of debt and equity proposals during the search period. What also took place during the search period was the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. As a result, Cooper acknowledges, Northwestern Mutual's all-equity offer was extraordinarily attractive.

"We only had to deal with one party, and didn't have to worry about engaging different debt and equity sources. Furthermore, amid the credit chaos, there were definite concerns that lack of liquidity might have put a stop to the project. "It was clear that whoever might be providing debt might not be able to close on it," Cooper explains.

In the meantime, Northwestern Mutual becomes a partner with BremnerDuke, a subsidiary of Duke Realty Corp. in Indianapolis, IN. "Northwestern Mutual gets an investment-grade partner and an investment-grade tenant, and a project on one of the top campuses in the southwest United States," Cooper remarks.

The deal is a good one for Baylor as well. "They get a whole new cancer center and medical office building being built with third-party money," Cooper says. "With deals of this size, available equity is few and far between."

By Amy Wolff Sorter with

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Economist Sees Bottom, Lenders Like Market

DALLAS-The good news is job losses are slowing, the unsold home inventory is contracting and LIBOR spreads are decreasing. The bad news is the slow down in these and other indicators is actually good news from an economic perspective.

Furthermore, according to Comerica Bank's chief economist Dana Johnson, the bad news really isn't bad news. For example, "once job losses start slowing, they start slowing fast," Johnson explained at the Appraisal Institute, North Texas Chapter's first North Texas Realty Symposium on May 12. "Housing starts, savings; they're all stabilizing. The recession isn't over, but it likely won't be as fierce."

Johnson pointed out to symposium participants that economists like to see various components stabilize because of indications there is a bottom in sight. For many, the bottom means that the recovery can begin. The recovery won't be painless, "but it will be better than people think," he commented.

What especially cheered Johnson was that LIBOR spreads decreased from the more than 400 basis points seen right after the bank meltdown last fall to a more reasonable 150 to 250 points above Treasury. Johnson noted that the shrinking spreads, combined with a favorable outcome of the banks' stress test process are showing that banks are solid and ready to lend to one another once again.

In discussing Texas, Johnson said that the state overall had stayed out of the recession until Q4 2008 for four reasons: strong population growth, a housing market that wasn't overbuilt, oil and energy exploration and the fact that the state is the largest import and export sector, second only to Washington State. Texas could have likely stayed above the fray for longer, even with declining energy prices, but when the financial crisis impacted international markets, it pulled the Lone Star State into the maelstrom as well.

If there is a particular sector that could be said to be on an upswing from the economic events, it is the Texas-based banks and smaller national banks. "We're seeing clients that, a year ago, wouldn't have looked at our bank," said Chris Daniel, executive vice president, American Bank of Texas. "Borrowers wanted to do the deals with Wall Street banks. Those banks were interested in volume and getting loans built up so they could sell. Those days are gone for awhile."

Daniel went on to say that American Bank of Texas, a well-capitalized bank owned by one person, is on the prowl for likely deals, liking income-producing office buildings and retail product with credit tenants. "We're calculating loan-to-cost rather than loan-to-value," he added.

Steve Patrick, vice president, business banking with Wachovia, a Wells Fargo Company said a deal for an income-producing property stood a better chance of clearing through an underwriting committee. Anyone going spec, he added, needs to have at least 50% of the project pre-leased before thinking of applying to Wells Fargo for a loan.

Plains Capital Bank branch president Chris Hansen agreed with the idea that an income-producing property was one his bank would likely examine. He added that a deal with liquidity was also attractive.

Nor is Plains Capital, or any other bank, for that matter, interested in foreclosing on any property. Banks are not in the business of real estate, the panelists explained, nor do they want to be.

"There's more value to a property if an owner can hang onto it, rather than us taking it," Hansen said. "As long as the client is dealing in good faith, I'd say work with him; keep him in there as long as possible."
By Amy Wolff Sorter with

N Texas Foreclosures Few and Far Between

DALLAS-Unlike other markets in which multifamily and industrial properties are going into foreclosure with depressing regularity, the Dallas-Fort Worth area seems immune from the distressed-asset syndrome. Experts at the Appraisal Institute, North Texas Chapter's Realty Symposium on May 12 said the trend is to try to preserve the ownership, whenever and wherever possible.

"There aren't many foreclosures coming into the system," said Dirk Goris, executive vice president with CB Richard Ellis. "There are a tremendous number of assets on the watch list, but lenders are more than willing to work things out." Brian O'Boyle, founder and managing broker with Apartments Realty Advisors/O'Boyle & Associates agreed, adding that the trend for the CMBS-financed product, especially, is to put the asset in receivership, preserve the debt, and write down the loans whenever possible.

The interesting aspect about this trend, however, is that buyers coming into North Texas to look for deals, are hoping for those foreclosures, but they aren't finding them. "We're seeing a lot more buyers coming to town, more than six months ago," Goris remarked. "I think they're hoping things will pick up on the foreclosure front, but there just hasn't been a flood of foreclosures. Yet."

O'Boyle pointed out that the smaller deals with non-distressed assets are getting done, especially those requiring a maximum equity raise of $4 million. But the institutional players are still remaining sidelined until the bottom shakes out.

The industrial side is mimicking the multifamily side. Additionally, the large portfolio packages so plentiful during the mid-2000s aren't these days.

Steven Berger, first vice president with CB Richard Ellis said that the days of massive industrial portfolios being sold as a single entity to an institutional buyer are gone. At one time, portfolio sellers were eager to sell lots of buildings as a package. But with smaller buyers stepping up to the plate, the sellers are changing their minds. "Single users are in better shape to be buying the one-offs from the portfolios," Berger pointed out. "Smaller banks can make the loans."

"The portfolio premium has vanished," added Josh McArtor, CBRE senior vice president. "The deals we're seeing right now are in the $25 million to $30 million range."

Much like their multifamily colleagues, the industrial panelists acknowledged that buyers are also looking for "the deal," in other words, the distressed industrial asset that the seller is desperate to get rid of. And, like their multifamily colleagues, the industrial experts said those foreclosed properties are few and far between, at least in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Both the multifamily and industrial sectors have seen drops in volume as well. ARA's O'Boyle pointed out that there were 211 transactions in 2007 and 105 completed in 2008. Meanwhile, so far in 2009, 10 have closed. "We're still faring better than a lot," he noted.

On the industrial side, McArtor said he and partner he and partner Jack Fraker managed to close 27 deals valued at $5 billion in 2007. A year later, the duo closed 26 deals. But the value was $982 million.

"This year, we'll beat '08 numbers," he said. "We're seeing acceptance of the de-leveraging process." While number of deals will grow, however, "pricing won't. Not for at least 18 months or so," McArtor commented.
By Amy Wolff Sorter with

Keynote Speaker Sees Strong Texas

DALLAS-Though Texas has joined much of the nation in entering the economic downturn, the North Texas Realty Symposium keynote speaker suggested the drivers of the state's economy wouldn't keep it down for long. Todd Staples, the state's Commissioner of Agriculture said that Texas has a diversified economic base, a reputation for jobs creation, and a high GDP.

"If Texas were its own country, it would have the highest GDP per person in the world," Staples told participants at the Appraisal Institute, North Texas Chapter's symposium on May 12. "We're number one in productivity per person, worldwide," he added."

The commissioner introduced other statistics meant to inspire the heart of Texans. For instance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 50% of all jobs created between December 2007 and December 2008 were created in Texas. Furthermore, he pointed out, Texas stayed away from the recession longer because of its diversified economy. Staples said businesses consider Texas high on their list of places to relocate because of a friendly tax policy, reliable workforce, civil justice and standard of living.

This doesn't mean the state can't use some improvement, however. On the sobering side, Staples sayd the Lone Star State placed 10th on the rate of growth. "Other countries are outpacing us," he said. To that end, the legislature is attempting to develop ways to manage growth. Furthermore, financial assistance through the Texas Capital Fund and the Texas Agriculture Finance Authority are on hand for property and to help with agricultural matters.

Furthermore, he told the participants, don't be shy with bringing forward shovel-ready products that could qualify for part of the federal stimulus money. "If there's an interest in going green, there's federal money for that too," he said.

But one aspect that remains somewhat sticky is Texas' role as a non-disclosure state, something that is impeding realistic valuation of real estate assets. "Discussions about this continue in the legislature," he acknowledged. "But there are folks who believe the value of real estate is a privacy issue, and they don't want what they pay for property known."

Staples allowed as the non-disclosure system in the state made it more difficult for appraisers to do their job, and remarked that the current property valuation system in the state needed some kind of reform. Just what that reform would be, however, wasn't clear. "Legislators are glad to learn, and hear, what the real estate community can provide in way of solutions," he added.
By Amy Wolff Sorter with

Young to Crowd: Be Glad You're In Texas

DALLAS-Population and job growth, combined with prevention of overbuilding on the retail end, mean Texas should weather the economy fairly well. Weitzman Group managing director Bob Young said that, thanks to the attitude that retail space should be demand-driven, Texas doesn't find itself drowning in a lot of excess inventory.

"We learned our lessons from the 1980s," said Young to participants at Appraisal Institute North Texas Chapter's North Texas Realty Symposium on May 12. "Construction was done right this time."

Even better news for the retail sector is that the grocery sector is in the best shape it's ever been. "People have to eat," Young remarked. "The dollars are going to grocers, rather than restaurants." Kroger is taking advantage of the demand by expanding, as is Wal-Mart, he said. Furthermore, specialty grocers, such as Sprouts, "is taking a health-conscious society into retail," Young remarked.

Still, as anyone picking up a newspaper or watching television knows, the retail sector isn't firing 100% on all cylinders. The lifestyle concept is struggling, Young remarked, as are malls and high-end restaurants. Even power centers are being hit, especially as the larger anchors declare Chapter 7 and are forced to liquidate.

The good news in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, however, is that "tenants are stepping up to backfill the vacant space," Young commented. He pointed out that Conn's, for example, is seeing a lot of opportunity in the big boxes vacated by Circuit City and Linens 'n Things.

The problem is, the market can't depend on the Conn's of the world to come in and bail out the empty spaces. Young predicted that in 2009 through 2010, vacancy would continue to increase. Furthermore, "the more the category killers reduce, the Staples, the Max's, the Depot's, the fewer there will be to backfill," Young said.
By Amy Wolff Sorter with

Realtors' median incomes fall by 13% in 2008

The recession has taken a bite out of real estate agents' median incomes, which fell more than 13 percent last year nationwide.

The median number of sales handled by agents also dropped – from four in 2007 to 3.5 transactions a year, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday, and their median sales volume last year was $1.2 million, down from $1.6 million in 2007.

Data about the slowdown in business was included in a sweeping industry profile the Realtors group just completed.

Paul Bishop, the NAR's managing director of real estate research, said members are diversified in their business activities.

"Most Realtors understand real estate is a cyclical business and are diversified in their income streams," Paul Bishop, who handles research for the Washington, D.C.-based trade group, said in the report. "Almost all of our members have secondary business specialties, and some are involved in related businesses."

Jim Fite, president of Century 21 Judge Fite Co., said Dallas-Fort Worth is experiencing a similar decline in sales per agent but said the North Texas market is stronger than the U.S. market.

"Realty is a local market, and there are still plenty of people buying real estate in the Dallas-Fort Worth area," Fite said.

The Metrotex Association of Realtors, a North Texas trade association, said agents in the D-FW area were leaving the industry last year. According to their data, the number of Realtors was down 5.6 percent year over year in March.

Real estate agents are also unwavering in their optimism – despite the worst housing downturn in generations.

Almost three-fourths of the Realtors surveyed nationwide said they intend to remain in the business during the next two years. Fewer than 10 percent said they were considering other options.

Other factors that stood out in the survey:

• The typical real estate agent is 54 years old and works 40 hours a week. Sixty percent are women.
• Only 4 percent of agents are under 30.
• Eighty-eight percent are white.
• The residential sales industry's median income last year was $36,700. Agents who have been in the business for two years or less earned a median of $8,600.
• The average real estate agent has been in the business for 10 years. But only 6 percent say it's their first profession.

The survey of more than 8,000 U.S. Realtors also highlighted changes in how agents are marketing homes.

More than a third of Realtors say they use social and professional Internet networking sites to find sales leads. And 17 percent regularly use blogs or other Internet tools.

But on average, members say they received only four buyer or seller inquiries over the past year from their personal Internet sites.

Almost 20 percent of real estate agents' business comes from referrals from previous clients.

Lynne Gorman, a team leader at Keller Williams Dallas City Central branch, said both sales and Realtor numbers have increased year over year in her office.

She said her branch experienced a 15 percent jump in Realtors and a 9 percent sales increase in 2008. She attributed the sales increase to leads generated through online tools such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Gorman said 88 percent of buyers turn to online resources first.

About 1.2 million active real estate agents are members of the National Association of Realtors. The number of Realtors has declined about 100,000 since 2006.
By STEVE BROWN and JOHN COLEMAN / The Dallas Morning News

Foreclosure sales pull down Dallas-Fort Worth home prices

An increase in foreclosure sales helped pull down Dallas-Fort Worth home prices in the first quarter.

But D-FW's 4.7 percent decline from a year ago was well below the almost 14 percent drop nationwide, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

The first-quarter annual decline here was about the same rate as at the end of 2008.

Local home prices have been falling for more than a year as the nationwide housing downturn has spread to Texas. But the dip has remained well below what most of the country is seeing.

In San Antonio, first-quarter prices were off 1 percent from a year ago, and in Austin, median home sales prices were down 1.2 percent, the Washington, D.C.-based Realtors association said. Houston prices were down 6.7 percent.

Housing analysts say Texas' home price fallout has been less because the state hadn't seen a run-up in home values like many U.S. markets did.

"The decline in demand and prices correlates more to the job losses now showing up in markets in Texas than because of excess inventory," said Ted Wilson of Dallas housing analyst Residential Strategies Inc. "Interestingly, job losses have occurred late in this recession compared to previous recessions."

Rising foreclosure sales in D-FW and most U.S. cities are also pressuring home prices.

The Realtors say that almost half the nationwide sales are foreclosures. More than 30 percent of local sales in recent months have been foreclosed properties, reports indicate.

"In areas with the biggest price declines, we also see much higher levels of distressed sales, which are distorting the data," Realtors economist Lawrence Yun said. "In many cases, homes are selling below replacement construction costs, which speaks to great value in the current market."

Home prices fell in 134 of the 152 metropolitan markets the Realtors track each quarter.

Changing mix
Along with foreclosures, median home prices in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have been pushed lower because of a plunge in the sale of high-end homes.

"Although the average and median prices are down, some of that decline has to do with the mix of homes that sold," said David Brown, who heads the Dallas office of housing analyst MetroStudy Inc. "I don't think we have the risk of significant value declines like other parts of the country because we did not suffer from the affordability issue.

"I believe housing demand will recover sooner in Texas because the recession has been much shallower here and we should benefit from an eventual improvement in the national economy."

Local performance
D-FW's home price performance in the national report was a bit better than local statistics show. First-quarter median home sales prices fell 8 percent in the area, according to the North Texas Real Estate Information Systems Inc. and Texas A&M University's Real Estate Center. Purchases of pre-owned homes in North Texas during the quarter were down 25 percent from the first quarter of 2008, based on sales through the Realtors' Multiple Listing Service.

It's probably too early to say when Texas home prices will bottom out, said James Gaines, an economist with Texas A&M University's Real Estate Center.

"The key probably is the rate of foreclosure during the next six to nine months," he said.

There are predictions that home foreclosures nationwide will rise in the next couple of months as lenders end their moratoriums on forced home sales, he said.

"To the extent that Texas can avoid significant foreclosure increases, we should do OK," Gaines said.
By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Top Minds Highlight NAR Real Estate Summit to Advance the U.S. Economy

Washington, DC - May 11, 2009 - (RealEstateRama) —The best and brightest minds across a spectrum of fields will gather here Tuesday to shine light on how real estate can lead the country out of the present economic downturn, as the National Association of Realtors® begins its annual Realtors® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.

An all-day event, “The Real Estate Summit: Advancing the U.S. Economy,” kicks off the weeklong NAR meetings that run through Saturday. Government officials, academics, business leaders, economists, media members and real estate industry experts will participate in the summit.

“NAR, as the leading advocate for homeownership and private property issues, is excited about presenting this dynamic, forward-looking summit, and we hope the distinguished guests will help us come to grips with the real estate challenges facing us all,” said Charles McMillan, president of NAR and a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth. “We expect to hear some great ideas and some innovative insights.”

Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, and Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Board Chairman, head up the summit’s all-star cast of speakers. Also on the docket are Sheila Bair, director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.; conservative commentator Pat Buchanan; former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn.; and U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee.

The opening Legislative and Regulatory Forum session features Buchanan and Ford. They will be followed by a morning panel session, “Reshaping Real Estate to Sustain Communities,” moderated by Ron Insana, senior analyst and commentator, CNBC.

The panel features noted economist Martin Feldstein, Harvard University; Barry Bluestone, dean, Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University; Susan Wachter, professor of real estate at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; and Eric Belsky, executive director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University.

The afternoon panel, moderated by Jane Bryant Quinn, contributing editor, Newsweek, will discuss “Financing Real Estate for Tomorrow.” Included among the distinguished panelists are Conrad Egan, president and CEO, National Housing Conference; Michael Calhoun, president, Center for Responsible Lending; Phil Bracken, executive vice president, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage; and Allan Meltzer, professor of political economy, Carnegie Mellon University.

During the rest of the week, more than 8,500 Realtors® will attend meetings, visit lawmakers and inspire action on Capitol Hill. Realtors® will be actively engaging policymakers to help move the real estate market forward, reiterate the value of the mortgage interest deduction to homeowners and the housing market, ensure affordable insurance through small business health plans, propose energy efficiency legislation, and stabilize and provide liquidity to commercial real estate markets. In addition, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun will share new research related to the jumbo loan market and discuss market challenges, short-term options and long-term solutions.

Learn more about the Realtors® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Friday, May 08, 2009

North Texas Sees Soft Demand, Uncertainty

DALLAS-Though North Texas has been somewhat immune to the recessionary pressures impacting many other parts of the nation, things began to change in late 2008 when the credit crunch impacted the entire nation; and Texas. The uncertainty these days about real estate activity in the Lone Star State prompted the Appraisal Institute's North Texas Chapter to offer its first-ever North Texas Realty Symposium.

The all-day event, scheduled for May 12 at the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre, will cover commercial real estate, lending and residential housing trends in North Texas. The symposium, years in the planning, will also examine the state of the local economy.

"Sales volumes are down, though we're seeing a lot of cash buyers," says Jim Underhill, vice president with the Appraisal Institute's north Texas Chapter. "Still, this all translated into a softer demand, plus there tends to be a disconnect between buyers and sellers, and what's being priced." Furthermore, both buyers and sellers are waiting on the sidelines until there is more clarity in the local markets, he adds.

Finding actual values of real estate to price an asset realistically also tends to be a challenge in Texas, because it isn't a full-disclosure state. Though the state's legislature periodically addresses the issue, it has yet to get the idea into a full-fledged bill. Underhill tells there are data sources available to find the information, though "most appraisers realize they have to beat the bush, talk to the brokers and find the sales." Nor does he see anything changing any time soon. "Property owners want to keep their taxes low, so they don't want to disclose an actual sales price," he remarks.

Regardless, Underhill says there are definite signs that North Texas is not likely to fare as poorly as other cities that have seen housing prices collapse. He points out that the area never experienced overbuilding or price increases that other parts of the country did. Nor have land prices significantly increased.

Still, with North Texas starting to feel the brunt of a sour economy, Underhill says the timing is right for the symposium. "We hope this can serve as a tool to our members and other real estate professionals, and provide a good understanding as to what's going on in the marketplace," he remarks.

Terry Darrow joins Jones Lang LaSalle

Real estate service firm Jones Lang LaSalle has hired Terry Darrow as managing director to oversee its Dallas-Fort Worth industrial brokerage operation.

Darrow is one of North Texas' best-known warehouse and commercial real estate executives. He was previously a top officer with First Industrial Realty Trust Inc.

"Growing our industrial practice across the country is a top priority for Jones Lang LaSalle as our clients are requesting expertise in this specific sector," Craig Meyer, managing director of the firm's national industrial division, said in a statement. "We are taking a giant step in putting together the strongest industrial team in Dallas-Fort Worth."

Three other industrial property brokers are also joining Jones Lang LaSalle. Kacy Jones has been hired as a senior vice president, Nathan Orbin as a vice president and William Wyatt as a senior associate.
By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Thursday, May 07, 2009

103-Unit Rosa Vista Has 43-Day Escrow

DALLAS-The 103-unit Rosa Vista Apartments traded ownership through an extraordinarily quick turnaround. The class C asset in the southern submarket was in escrow for 43 days before the Miami, FL-based buyer and Minnesota seller concluded the transaction.

Seller broker Sam Pettigrew with locally based Cantrell Co. tells the complex on 3738 Legendary Lane did attract around five offers when brought to market, but ended up under contract quickly with the first bid. The entire process from marketing to close took 68 days, with the sales price just south of the $2 million ask.

"The upside on this is the repair of some deferred maintenance. The buyer is planning some upgrades. Then he can raise the rents to market level and get it stabilized," says Pettigrew, who partnered with Cantrell's Todd Franks to represent the seller. The 1960s complex is 80% occupied whereas the submarket has a 94% occupancy rate, he adds. Furthermore, the market's rent average is $.79 per square foot. Rosa Vista's average ask is $.68 per square foot. The average unit size is 890 square feet and the unit mix is made up of one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Derrick Caballero with Dallas-based Phillips Commercial represented the buyer, who is looking for similar assets in the area. The seller, meanwhile, has one more asset in the market, though Pettigrew says the entity will hold onto it for awhile. "They'd owned Rosa Vista for awhile, about 10 years, and they were ready to sell," he adds.


By Amy Wolff Sorter with

Ocean Prime restaurant to open in Uptown this fall

An Ohio restaurant firm is bringing one of its signature eateries to Dallas' Uptown.

Ocean Prime restaurant – operated by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants of Columbus – will open this fall in the Rosewood Court building at Cedar Springs Road and Pearl Street.

The 10,000-square-foot "modern American supper club" will seat 400 and will be on the ground floor of the new building.

"We are pleased that Ocean Prime has decided to open their first Texas location in Rosewood Court," Dallas businesswoman Caroline Rose Hunt, whose family built Rosewood Court, said Tuesday in a prepared statement. "Ocean Prime will provide our tenants a first-class dining experience in a one-of-a-kind location."

Ocean Prime has restaurants in Detroit, Miami, Phoenix, Orlando and Tampa, Fla. The Dallas restaurant will be Ocean Prime's first in Texas.

The menu includes seafood and steaks, and most dinner entrees are priced between $25 and $50.

Ocean Prime is one of seven restaurant chains operated by Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.
Dallas businessmen Jack Baum and Mort Meyerson originally planned to operate a restaurant in Rosewood Court. But the partners canceled those plans because of the economic downturn.

The 19-story Rosewood Court houses the corporate headquarters of the Hunt family's Rosewood Corp. investment firm and other tenants. Stream Realty leases the office space, and United Commercial Realty represents the retail section of the project.

"We're delighted to have Ocean Prime as the newest tenant at Rosewood Court," said Stream Realty's Jon Altschuler. "The restaurant will be unlike any other in Dallas.

"Having the restaurant open in the building will only add to Rosewood Court's energy level."

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Analysts: D-FW apartment market will be one of the last to turn around

Because of widespread construction, Dallas-Fort Worth will be one of the last apartment markets to see a turnaround, industry forecasters say.

Almost 23,000 apartments are being built in North Texas – more than in any other U.S. metropolitan area.

“We won’t see our peak deliveries of new units until the end of this year,” apartment analyst Greg Willett said. “D-FW will be the last market in the country to wrap up their new supply.
“We think that the bottom of the market here is later than in the other metro areas across the state – at best in early 2010,” Willett said at a Thursday morning apartment market forecast seminar sponsored by Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services.

Expect apartment vacancy rates in the D-FW area to increase by about 3 percentage points over the next year from their current almost 10 percent vacancy, said Willett, who is vice president of research for Carrollton-based M/PF YieldStar Inc. And rents, which have been flat, should fall by about 3 percent.

“When you get to the bottom, D-FW will probably sit on the bottom for several quarters,” he predicted. “You can't really get any momentum going until you get though the apartment completions, which go all the way through 2010.”

Until last year, the apartment market in Texas and across the country had been one of the best sectors in the real estate investment market.

And because of the sharp drop in home sales, apartment landlords were optimistic that their business would remain good.

“You would expect people would be coming to apartments and lining up to rent units and allowing us to dodge this downturn,” said Hessam Nadji, Marcus & Millichap’s national research director. “But in the fourth quarter, the vacancy went up pretty sharply.

“The issue is job loss,” he said. “Until jobs come back, we are not going to see this reverse.”
In bad economic times, many young apartment renters double up or move back in with families, which increases vacancy rates.

During the last year, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has seen almost a 7,000-unit decline in occupied apartment units – the biggest such decrease in more than a decade.

“Our expectation is that the vacancies will continue to rise in 2009,” Nadji said. “Nationwide, rents will be down 4 to 5 percent this year and another 3 percent down next year.

“The next two years will definitely be a challenge for us.”

The decline in apartment leasing and rents and the lending credit crunch have sharply reduced the number of apartment sales this year, brokers say.

“Nothing is really happening – sales are anemic,” said Will Balthrope, who heads Marcus & Millichap’s Dallas-based apartment brokerage team. “Hopefully this time next year, things will be happening.”
By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Monday, May 04, 2009

7-Eleven Embarks on CRE Portfolio Review

7-Eleven Inc. is reviewing its real estate portfolio nationwide to analyze fair-market value for the company's retail sites. The goal in this endeavor is to renegotiate and restructure and in some cases, re-position as the company prepares to expand its store count.

The convenience retail company, which has approximately 7,800 stores nationwide, has launched the effort for a couple of reasons. First, the Dallas-based company's management wants to see leases more in line with current rates. Given many of the locations opened in the late 1980s, when rents were higher, Dan Porter, 7-Eleven's vice president of real estate and new store development says he's aiming for more realistic rates on the next go-around.

Porter tells that the company is negotiating 5-10-year deals, triple net, and possibly restructuring some of the long-term leases. "In areas where we might have underperforming stores, we'll try to negotiate for a partial rent reduction, or additional term," he adds. The analysis and negotiation is being undertaken by CB Richard Ellis' Dallas team, which is being led by senior vice presidents Mike Friedman and Will Evans.

Porter says a great many retailers are taking the same steps to review their portfolios, especially in light of an uncertain economy. However, 7-Eleven is going through the process, not because it's pulling back, but because it's expanding. The company's plan is to build 250 new stores in 2009.

The company considers parts of California, Washington State, Colorado and Florida, as well as the New York-New Jersey region, Washington DC and Baltimore, MD and the Dallas-Fort Worth area as prime target areas for growth. Porter says 7-Eleven already has a presence in these particular markets, and is doing very well in them. Furthermore, "these are markets in which we have a full business system in place," Porter says. The system involves daily delivery of fresh food including sandwiches, salad and fruit.

The company is also making a concerted effort to cut back on its owner-operated stores and switch to franchises. One way in which this is being done is through 7-Eleven's Business Conversion Program, which targets locally operated convenience stores.

"What we do is talk to these folks and encourage them to come on board with 7-Eleven," Porter comments. "We feel this is a good opportunity for independent operators in the marketplace to take advantage of our franchise system."


By Amy Wolff Sorter with

Friday, May 01, 2009

Commercial real estate transactions


Chrysler Realty sold an 11-acre property at 2920 N. Interstate 35E in Carrollton to Central Kia, which will move from its existing dealership. W Thurston Witt Jr. of United Commercial Realty handled the transaction.

An investor purchased a 12,900-square-foot CVS Pharmacy store at 775 E. U.S. Highway 80 in Forney. David Clary of Stan Johnson Co. negotiated the sale of the building, which has a long-term lease.

Dr. Ken Smart bought 6,200 square feet of commercial space at 6898 Lebanon Road in Frisco for his plastic surgery center. Mark Pittman negotiated the sale.

A local investor bought the 88-unit Amber Vista Apartments at 1901 E. 15th St. in Plano from LNR Partners. Transwestern negotiated the sale.

Conti Organization of Dallas purchased Eastfield Village, a 232-unit apartment project at 8405 E. La Prada Drive in Dallas. Built in 1969, the rental complex is on 14.7 acres next to Eastfield College. The new owners plan to renovate the project. Transwestern negotiated the sale.

Knopf Family LP bought a 26,760-square-foot commercial property at 2100 Regency Drive in Irving. Bob Kent of Mercer Co. negotiated the sale with Tom Lynn of Robert Lynn Co.


C3 Premedia Solutions Inc. leased 20,729 square feet of commercial space at Gateway Business Center, 2900 Gateway Drive in Irving. Ken Walter of Colliers International negotiated the lease.

TexPress Packages Inc. leased 52,765 square feet of industrial space at 1841 Monetary Lane in Carrollton. Jeff Mercer of Mercer Co. negotiated the lease with Jean Russo of Cushman & Wakefield.

Landmark Paint leased 7,500 square feet of industrial space at 8821 Diplomacy Row in Dallas. Ryan Boozer of Mercer Co. negotiated the lease.

Kaufman and Broad of Texas Inc. leased 17,629 square feet of industrial space at 2845 W. Airport Freeway in Irving from TIAA-CREF. Steve Koldyke, Jordan Buis and Warren Willey of CB Richard Ellis handled the transaction.
Real Estate Editor Steve Brown compiles this list.

Real estate briefs

Jones Lang LaSalle
consolidates offices

International real estate service firm Jones Lang LaSalle has consolidated its Dallas operations into a just-completed office building at 8343 Douglas Ave. in the Preston Center business district.

Jones Lang LaSalle inherited the space last year when it bought the Staubach Co. The combined firms will now occupy 71,747 square feet on four floors of the seven-story building. More than 220 Jones Lang LaSalle workers are making the move.

"When Jones Lang LaSalle and the Staubach Co. merged in 2008, we knew it would be critical for everyone to be under the same roof to maintain the highest-quality service for our local and national clients," said Paul Whitman, president of the firm's North Texas operations.

Lincoln Property developed the Jones Lang LaSalle building, which is the first new office project in Preston Center in a decade.

2 D-FW executives join
real estate hall of fame

Two local executives are receiving the North Texas Commercial Association of Realtors' highest award.

Lucy Billingsley and Jesse Pruitt are joining the D-FW Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame.

Billingsley developed downtown's One Arts Plaza building and the Austin Ranch project in Carrollton. Pruitt is a partner at CMC Commercial Real Estate Group and an alum of Vantage Cos.

Along with Billingsley and Pruitt, the association will honor longtime Dallas real estate broker J. Reagan Dixon with its Michael F. McAuley Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony May 7.

Old Town center
gets new leasing rep

One of Dallas' best-known shopping centers is getting a new leasing rep. Dallas-based Weitzman Group said Thursday that it's taking over leasing of Old Town center at Greenville Avenue and Lovers Lane. The 265,233-square-foot shopping center, which opened in the 1970s, has been significantly redeveloped in the last decade and now has anchor tenants including Borders, World Market, Michaels and PetSmart.

A California company, Westwood Financial Corp., has owned the open-air retail complex since 2004. Weitzman is also taking over the leasing of Westwood's Three Way Central shopping center at Greenville and Southwestern Boulevard. The retail brokerage company now represents seven Westwood projects in the Dallas area.

Weitzman Group founder Herbert Weitzman directed the original leasing of Old Town when it opened 39 years ago.
By Steve Brown

Grubb & Ellis will market Champions Circle in Fort Worth

The Dallas office of real estate service firm Grubb & Ellis Co. said Wednesday that it’s been selected to lease Champions Circle, a mixed-use development planned for north Fort Worth.

The 279-acre complex will be built at the corner of State Highway 114 and Interstate 35W next to an existing Marriott conference center hotel with a Greg Norman-designed golf course. It will have retail space, offices, entertainment and residential construction.

The project is being done by Line Diversified Development and Interra Development Group LLC.

Interra is developing the project's first entry, a two-story, 120,000-square-foot office building. Wednesday’s announcement did not include any details about when it's scheduled to open.

Ultimately, Champions Circle will have more than 3 million square feet of space and will cost more than $300 million. Developers say it will create approximately 7,000 jobs and generate about $15 million in tax revenue annually for the city of Fort Worth.
By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

"Approving Prop. 2 won't discourage neighborhood development in Dallas."

Wrong, say Tod Ruble and Blaine Lee, of Harvest Partners, whose $750 million Park Lane mixed-use project received $20 million in tax-increment financing incentives from the City of Dallas.
"Many developers, especially those from outside North Texas, would likely look elsewhere rather than deal with the uncertainty that Proposition 2 would create," Ruble told Dallas Business Journal.
"I frankly don’t know how the citizenry could evaluate whether or not a project is practical."
Given this proposition's back story and its potential negative impact, The Dallas Morning News' editorial recommendation on Prop. 2 minced no words:
"This is arguably the most ill-conceived and punitive Dallas charter amendment ever to appear on a city ballot. It deserves to be soundly defeated."

"A Prop. 2 Web site says that their amendment won't hamstring the city."

Every Dallas City Council representative — from District 1 to District 14 — believes that, if passed, Prop. 2 will make Dallas non-competitive. Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price says Prop. 2 is designed to stifle the growth of this city.

In an Op-Ed piece in The Dallas Morning News, stalwart civic leader Ebby Halliday wrote, "The last thing we need is a destructive proposition like the one proposed by this union that reduces our ability to compete locally and nationally."

"Projects that could be impacted include retail development, historic preservation efforts, new initiatives, transit-oriented developments and residential/retail projects," she adds."

I don't know of any developers that would put themselves through all of that just to invest their money in Dallas, especially when neighboring cities will welcome them with open arms."


"Dallas doesn't need a convention center hotel downtown."

"Dallas is noticeably behind the competition without an attached convention center hotel," writes David Holl. He should know, as president and CEO of Mary Kay Inc., he brings 30,000-50,000 conventioneers to Dallas each summer.

"Cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Orlando, Phoenix and San Diego all have or will have an attached convention center hotel.

Even in Texas, the other large competitors, including Austin, Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio, already have an attached hotel. "Convention-goers bring millions of dollars in direct spending to our economy. Those dollars obviously benefit our city, taxpayers and other businesses."

In its editorial, The Dallas Morning News adds that voting for Prop. 1 "would cost Dallas and North Texas millions in convention-related business."


"If the hotel is such a good deal, why isn't a private developer paying for it?"

"It's a matter of cheaper municipal tax-free financing," retired Bank One Texas chairman Ron Steinhart tells The Dallas Morning News.

"The numbers work. It reduces the risk substantially by having the ability to issue tax-free bonds at lower interest rates. Debt that might require a 7 or 8 percent taxable interest rate might well be 4 or 5 percent interest if it's tax-free. So you can service debt with less occupancy. You don't have as big of a nut to crack.

"Hotelier John Scovell reinforces, tax-exempt revenue bonds "will be repaid with revenues from guests staying at the hotel – not Dallas taxpayers.

"In a nutshell: Dallas' business leaders say this financing approach makes good business sense for Dallas.


"A vote for Prop. 1 will provide more money for streets and police."

Wikipedia defines non sequitur as "an abrupt, illogical, unexpected or absurd turn of plot or dialogue not normally associated with or appropriate to that preceding it. It is a type of logical fallacy."

Of all the arguments put forward by Prop. 1 supporters, "safer streets not hotel suites" is the biggest non sequitur.

Mayor Leppert says, "The hotel adds billions to our economy and creates thousands of jobs that we really need. And the cost of the hotel is paid for by hotel users, not taxpayers. It actually keeps our property taxes low by generating new sales taxes from visitors."

John Scovell, president of Woodbine Development (which owns Hyatt Regency Dallas) adds in a News editorial, "Tourism generates billions of dollars each year. On average, a conventioneer spends $290 a day. Each night in a hotel room, meal in a restaurant and purchase of pint-sized cowboy boots puts sales tax money in city coffers. Those sales help provide city services that visitors rarely use."


"The City of Dallas shouldn't be in the hotel business."

Some would have you believe that Mayor Tom Leppert himself will be placing mints on pillows.

R.I.P. Dallas clarifies, "If the city is in the convention business, then the city is in the hotel business. The city already owns a hotel – the Grand Hyatt DFW."

Dallas also owns the American Airlines Center, Fair Park, Love Field, and half of DFW Airport ... but that doesn't mean city staffers will play point guard in the NBA playoffs, perform "Mary Poppins" during the State Fair of Texas, or pilot non-stop flights to Orlando.

People confuse owning the hotel with operating it, says insurance executive Tom Dunning in The Dallas Morning News. "The city of Dallas will be the landlord. Omni [Hotels] will be the operator."

So, why is there this expensive hubbub against the hotel? Simple, The Wall Street Journal reports, "Dallas real-estate mogul Harlan Crow doesn't want his city to build a planned convention-center hotel ... he owns a big hotel a couple of miles away."