What’s Up Ray Washburne’s Sleeve? Big Plans for the Former Dallas Morning News HQ

Dallas Morning News

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On Sunday, Bethany mused on what a creative developer could do with an old newspaper building — as in the very one we have in downtown Dallas, the former Dallas Morning News “Rock of Truth” headquarters that Ray Washburne’s Charter DMN Holdings purchased a little over a month ago.

The iconic building at 508 Young Street just across from Union Station is known by many as the “Rock of Truth” because of George Bannerman Dealey’s strong words etched on the front. Washburne’s company purchased the 8-acre campus holding two buildings for $28 million.

First of all, the Dallas Morning News building’s exteriors will definitely be saved and put to use.

The Standard High Line in New York City could be a model for Washburne’s planned boutique hotel at the former Dallas Morning News campus.

“We are going to keep the existing building and convert it into a 200- to 300-room boutique business hotel, completely saving the exterior character of the building,” Washburne told me.

He pointed out that the buildings (there are two)  are very close to the Dallas Convention Center, which has virtually no entertainment district or activities within walking distance. Washburne wants to give the center a huge asset by creating a thriving district: the hotel, restaurants, possibly a Gilley’s or Billy Bob’s venue.

In other words, a lively, fun place for conventioneers to hang out, just down the street.

“There are no activities at the convention center’s front door,” he said. “On the back end is the Omni, which is doing very well. Then there is the back end of the convention center, where buses drop people off. It’s kind of uninspiring.”

The former New York Daily News printing press building in Brooklyn, New York, became Newswalk, luxury condos, in 2002.

The Philadelphia Evening and Sunday Bulletin’s campus will be transformed into Schuylkill Yards Innovation District. (Photo courtesy Brandywine Realty Trust)

Washburne says he is researching the transformation of old newspaper buildings into cool developments around the country. Also, I have stayed at the Ritz Carlton Residences and Club built atop and integrated into the first San Francisco Chronicle building at 609 Market Street. I could live there forever.

New York City has provided plenty of inspiration for Washburne, as he has been touring renovated historic buildings and boutique hotels. He really likes The Standard Hotel, built atop a former elevated train line in what has become known as High Line in NYC’s Meatpacking District. One of the Standard’s “standard features” is a full wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, with sweeping views of Manhattan and/or the mighty Hudson River, in every one of the 338 rooms. Besides High Line, there are Standard Hotels in LA, Hollywood, Miami, and London. How cool would it be to have a Standard in Dallas right here? 

The Standard NYC advertises great views of Manhattan and the Hudson River from their High Line building.

Washburne has pretty much ruled out using any part of the structure for commercial office — if anything, it would be a creative office space.

As for the interiors he bought — like any new property owner, he plans to redecorate majorly.

“It wasn’t that nice [on the inside]. I thought it would have cool conference rooms or something, but nothing,” he says. “It was all ripped out years ago. You know that the facility ran 24/7,  it never closed; the carpet is pretty well worn.”

Apparently, a mid-1970s Brutalist renovation stripped out the original Art Deco interiors, replacing with a kind of fragmented, bank-interior bland look — at least that’s what I thought the few times I was in The Rock.

“All the old beautiful moldings were ripped out by the News as they went from closed offices of the ‘Mad Men’ era to a big open floor plan,” says Washburne. “I wish there was stuff to save on the interior, but we will have to re-create a really cool 1940’s Art Deco feel.”

The convention center needs more rooms and different kinds of rooms, he says. Whoever stays at his yet-to-be-named, very cool boutique hotel, won’t stay at The Omni.  Or the Hyatt.

“Right now, we are accessing what the building is structurally and the acreage,” says Washburne. “Actually, the building is kind of confusing. We will be demo-ing interiors this year.”

And the Rock was sold completely furnished.

“[The Dallas Morning News] went to all brand-new furniture,” says Washburne, “and left everything behind.”

If that included any typewriters or CueCats, I suggested that DMN Holdings hold a tag sale or two. Lots of reporters and editors might want them for the nostalgia.