Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Hotel Lumen breathes new life into property by SMU
For years, Park Cities residents have largely regarded the Hotel Lumen on Hillcrest Avenue as a nice place to house Aunt Roz during family gatherings.
The former hotel restaurant, poorly lit and tucked into the back of the property, built a local following that was consistently described as loyal but small.
These days, the hotel is introducing its neighbors to the fruits of a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion. The project, which included a three-story addition, brought the hotel kitchen to the forefront of the footprint, boosted the room count and expanded the public schmooze spaces.
The hotel’s owners hope the moves, along with increased marketing and outreach, will persuade more locals to drop by.
“We’ve expanded food and beverage, we’ve expanded event space, we’ve expanded areas that are great places to hang out and relax,” said Michael Tregoning, chief financial officer of the Headington Cos., which owns the hotel.
He said early indications are that area residents are showing more interest in the property.
Tregoning works for billionaire Tim Headington, the oil and gas man/movie producer whose company also owns the Joule Hotel in downtown Dallas. (It, too, is expanding.)
Tregoning described the Hotel Lumen’s upgrade, which was largely finished over the summer but had its official unveiling last month, as part of a long-standing plan to “correct elements that were either shortcomings or weren’t as good as they could or should be. Food and beverage was one of those.”
Hotel Lumen, across the street from Southern Methodist University, was previously a Ramada Limited hotel. Tregoning described the predecessor property as “old and, by any measure, past its prime.” It had the distinction of being the only hotel within the city limits of University Park. (The Hilton Dallas Park Cities is just across the border.)
Headington purchased the site in 2003 and upgraded it to a 52-room boutique hotel.
Soon after the Hotel Lumen opened, Headington bought an adjacent Shell gasoline station, which made way for three-story addition.
The expansion and renovation project began in winter 2010 and was completed in August. The project created a living room-style lounge and conversation pit in the lobby, a courtyard pool, a rooftop terrace with views of downtown and 34 more guest rooms.
The addition boosted the staff count from 40 to 100.
A larger kitchen allows the hotel to serve an expanded menu at the new restaurant, called the Front Room: A Park Cities Diner. Nick Amoriello, formerly of the Meddlesome Moth, was recently named executive chef.
The bigger kitchen also allows the hotel to serve much larger banquets and expand its catering business. That’s expected to boost food and beverage revenue as a percentage of total sales. There is also a new business center that doubles as a private dining room.
“We added a pool, which can be a gathering spot,” Tregoning added. “It’s really to provide a communal area, a fun place that has food and beverage service.
“We look at the hotel as an amenity for all of the UP residents and stakeholders, certainly SMU, Highland Park, University Park residents and Dallas generally,” he added. “We think it’ll be a great place for events.”
A tax benefit
Collector-quality art by local artists and a Brad Oldham sculpture help the hotel achieve its goal of being fun and casual with a bit of attitude.
Hotel officials have routinely declined to reveal the construction cost. A construction permit from University Park puts the value of the new building at $6.5 million.
For University Park, a city of about 23,000 with a median household income of about $143,000, the hotel expansion means additional tax dollars.
“If their restaurant is more successful and more people use it, then our sales tax would go up,” said Robbie Corder, University Park’s director of community development.
“Certainly the value of the expanded part of the hotel is going to be higher, so the property taxes will be greater,” he added. “So the city will see a benefit there.”
University Park does not levy a hotel occupancy tax. That’s because revenue from the tax must be used for economic development. Given the low priority and limited opportunity for commercial development, the city opted to pass on that tax.
When construction began on the project, Corder said, his office fielded a few calls from residents wondering more about the neighborhood impact than the economic impact.
“The developers of the hotel were very conscious of the neighborhood,” he said. “They tried to minimize windows that looked out over onto the west, the residential area behind Hillcrest.”
Asked about the economic impact, Corder paused.
“Unlike other cities, we don’t have a focus on economic development,” he said, noting that only 4 percent of the 8,279 utility accounts in the city are commercial accounts.
“It’s not something where we said, ‘Hotel Lumen needs to expand so we’ll have greater economic development.’ That’s not something that’s on our radar.”
But the upgrade is putting the hotel on the radar of residents like Amy Camillo, 37, and her husband, Chris Camillo, 38, who’ve been University Park residents for about two years.
They moved from Uptown, where they had a variety of places to go, Amy Camillo said, as servers passed out deviled eggs with ham and fried chicken at a recent hotel reception.
“There wasn’t an Uptown-feeling place in University Park,” she said.
Chris Camillo had breakfast in the hotel restaurant recently, ordering a frittata with Jimmy’s Italian sausage. He deemed it “phenomenal.”
The couple has toddler twins. Amy Camillo is a member of the University Park Preschool Association, which has been scouting locations for a silent auction to be held in March.
She said the new and improved Lumen is her first choice.
“We want to keep it in the neighborhood but have a fun, trendy place,” she said.
“We’ve been talking about [the hotel] a lot. We don’t want to go to a run-of-the-mill place,” she said. “We’re very excited about the expansion. It’s so unique for University Park.”
Jim Larkin and Cindy Schuermann, a couple for nearly 30 years, live about five minutes from the hotel.
“We were aware that the hotel was here but never thought much about it,” said Larkin, who recalls staying in the hotel years ago. “Now we would look at this property differently. I think it’s making a different impression.
“They’re doing all the right things so far,” Larkin said, as a server offered up honeycomb-topped jalapeño corn bread.