|By Steve Brown, The Dallas Morning
NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 12, 2010 --One consequence of aging is frequent bouts of dej... vu.
When I pulled into the office parking lot this morning, I stopped to gawk at construction of the convention center hotel going up next door.
I saw the same scene 33 years ago this week when I drove in the lot for the first time.
Of course, that was a different hotel and a much younger me.
Construction on the Reunion Hyatt was looming on the west side of The Dallas Morning News back in 1977.
And now a time warp has shifted the hotel building activity to the east side of our offices.
The skyline behind it has dramatically changed.
Where did the years go? And, boy, is this a different town and a different hotel.
Some things are the same. When work on the Reunion Hyatt kicked off more than 30 years ago, Dallas was dealing with the fallout from a commercial real estate meltdown.
Overbuilding and speculation in the early 1970s ran head-on into a recession that shut the sector down for many years.
The grand Hyatt project with its fairy wand of an observation tower was the biggest building going up in downtown Dallas in 1977.
With its $71 million cost, the Reunion hotel was touted as the shot in the arm downtown needed to attract visitors and development.
Three decades later, the spiel is the same. Only the price tag for this hotel project -- around a half-billion dollars -- is much greater.
Perhaps that's a good thing, because the economic mess is a lot bigger this go-round.
The two hotel projects couldn't be more different.
With its soaring atrium and stair-stepped design, the Hyatt was planned to float along the western edge of the skyline like a big silver cloud.
Based on the artist's renderings plastered on the construction fence, today's convention hotel 2.0 will look something like Darth Vader's hat.
"You don't know the power of the dark side."
Let's hope that's the case, because the local real estate market and the Central Business District could do with some Star Wars-style special effects.
While Dallas isn't ground zero for the 2010 commercial real estate crash, rising foreclosure totals and the slumping economy are achingly familiar to anyone who's been in the business for a while.
In most of these downturns, public sector projects soldier on while the business community licks its wounds.
This too shall pass.
And I can't wait to see the hotel design they come up with 33 years from now.
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