Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Ever Happened to the Plaza?

Some of you may remember the saga of the Plaza Hotel from last winter and spring. Central Dallas CDC planned to turn the building into Permanent Supportive Housing and, after many vicissitudes, our plan was finally defeated by neighborhood opposition. I blogged about the story on February 17, 18, 26, and 28, March 29, and April 8, 2009, for any of you that can’t bear not to complete your homework.

The Plaza is back in the news today, here’s the text version of Channel 11’s report on the current state of the building:

“Aug 4, 2009 9:58 pm US/Central
Owners Of Dallas High-Rise Offering Free Rent
DALLAS (CBS 11 / TXA 21) ―

Imagine living in an expensive rental property, in a high-rise building, with a priceless view of downtown Dallas, for free. It sounds too good to be true but it's a reality for a handful of families who are taking advantage of a remarkable opportunity during hard economic times.

It's been Tom Coughlin's home for just over two months and the 10th floor, two-room, suite came with furniture and a skyline view. "I would have paid for this place as much as I've paid for any place I've lived in the last 10 years," he said.

The amount the 61-year-old real estate broker pays is – nothing! He got the deal after answering a craigslist ad posted by the owners of the former Ramada Inn Plaza Hotel, who plan to renovate the property late next year.

"We decided, that for security reasons, it would be a good idea to have some people living in it so it wouldn't be a vacant building," explained property owner Larry Hamilton. "So, we kind of made this unusual offer on craigslist that we would provide free rent.

"That's right – the rent is free, for up to a year, and comes with very few conditions. Residents are only asked to report problems and keep the gate locked on the fence around the hotel, which was built more than 30 years ago


Hamilton says prospective tenants must pass background check and offer reasons for wanting to live there, but can move into any room they want and take anything out of a room if they need it. The rooms have all the furnishing of a hotel.

Sure, there's no staff working inside the building, no air conditioning in the hallways and some might find living in an old, almost empty, hotel a little creepy; but those who responded to the ad were all struggling financially and consider the agreement as a lucky break.

Anyone wanting to sign up on a waiting list for a chance to live free in the building can contact the Hamilton Properties Corporation by email.”

Before everyone gets too excited and you all call Larry Hamilton for a free place to live, I need to tell you my take on what’s going on. As usual, Larry Hamilton is thinking two or three steps ahead of the rest of us. A vacant building is subject to a lot of vandalism and goes down hill fast. One way to avoid that is to hire a security firm—probably what most of us would have done. It works, but it’s expensive.

But Larry is always thinking and he realized he had 252 hotel rooms that weren’t generating any income for him, so he could just trade a few of those rooms for people that would serve as unofficial night watchmen. I really doubt he wants to fill the entire hotel with people that aren’t paying anything. That’s a pretty dubious long-term business plan, and Larry is a very smart operator.

On the other hand, you never know, I could be entirely wrong about what Larry has in mind. I did say that he’s usually a couple of steps ahead of the rest of us.

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