We were all too busy yesterday, either with our Valentines (nice!) or, sadly, processing the news of yet another high school mass shooting in Florida. Truly, it’s hard to think of real estate right now.
But yesterday, it occurred to me that a North Texas developer has given the city a potentially HUGE gift, the best Valentine ever.
Mehrdad Moayedi, one of the largest developers in Texas, who successfully restored the landmark Statler Hotel and promises to do more of the same to the The Cabana Hotel, is trying to give Dallas a gift of sheer love: a home for our homeless.
Mehrdad has made an offer to buy the vacant Dawson State Jail that is sitting downtown on the banks of the Trinity River. Moayedi says he wants to turn the 10-story building into a housing and services center for Dallas’ homeless population. This is the best idea ever, and one I have actually had for years. In fact, I can say that this idea got me into City politics when I first started emailing my councilman, Lee Kleinman, about it.
“This is an opportunity to do something for these people, but not in the traditional way where you have a warehouse and you put a lot of beds in there,” Moayedi said. “There has to be a situation where people are treated with respect.
If anyone can do that, it’s Mehrdad Moayedi. And I think the entire design community should help!
Mehrdad is CEO of Farmers Branch-based Centurion American Development Group. He owns vast tracts of developments across the North Texas landscape, including The Stoneleigh Residences, the Cabana Hotel, and of course, the Crespi Estate that he purchased in December from Andy Beal via Concierge auction.
His firm just completed a $230 million renovation of the Statler Hotel and Apartment Residences, which are quickly leasing. Lest I forget: Centurion American recently purchased for a makeover the landmark Mesquite Rodeo. There are other properties in this town that Mehrdad has re-made, he is literally the king of real estate makeovers.
Dawson may not exactly be a mid-century relic: the 23-year-old jail (West Commerce Street near Riverfront Boulevard) has been fallow for years. The state has it up for sale. I know of at least one other developer interested in buying it, but I’m sworn to secrecy. Obviously there is no parking, which makes it rather difficult for an apartment/condo/office, office. That’s why it is the perfect place for an out-of-the-box approach to housing the homeless. It has plumbing for bathrooms, rooms, hallways. Take out the bars and locks, put in warm colors and a few Nectar/Casper beds.
Moayedi said the tower provides “a perfect scenario” for helping Dallas’ homeless community while coming up with a new use for the empty building. (He said:) “The building is useless when it comes to anything else.”
Mehrdad has offered the state more than $3 million to buy the property; the state has countered with a higher price. He says it will take $10 million to remodel, which he wants to do entirely through private funding, and could house up to 1,000 people with facilities for medical, mental health and job counseling services.
Some Dallas homeless experts believe that housing for all is the only way to fight homelessness, a concept with which I currently disagree. I think some folks in our society always need “housemothers” to help them through life, which is essentially what in-house counseling services would provide.
“We need people in housing not shelters, long term,” said Larry James, the chief executive with Dallas’ CitySquare, who also says Dallas needs a comprehensive housing policy. Totally true. But he admits Mehrdad has done “impressive stuff, and is capable of delivering.”