August 9, 2017
Dallas Business Journal, by Candace Carlisle
Dallas developer Jim Lake is getting closer to beginning work on the proposed $24 million transformation of the historic Ambassador — turning the 113-year-old, six-story hotel into a micro-unit urban oasis near downtown Dallas.
Until then, Lake and his team at Dallas-based Jim Lake Cos. are meeting with members of the Cedars neighborhood and getting the property designated as a historic landmark.
The 1904-built hotel — originally called the Majestic Hotel — has played host to U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Woodrow Wilson, with hotel guests like Sarah Bernhardt and other actors of the era spending the night at the six-story, wood-built structure.
A few weeks ago, the Ambassador was in the limelight again, this time in the USA Network television show, ‘Queen of the South.”
“We bought this two years ago, but we’ve been waiting for our other projects in Waxahachie and Jefferson to be completed,” Lake told the Dallas Business Journal.“We put together our team two months ago and we could begin starting construction, depending on hurdles, in early 2018.”
The redevelopment of the historic Ambassador near Dallas Heritage Village could be a catalyst for other projects in the Cedars neighborhood. Lake said he is working with city officials to connect the 2.4-acre property directly with Dallas Heritage Village with the help of abandoning St. Paul Street and putting two-way traffic on Ervay Street.
If all goes well, Lake said this would create a “centerpiece destination,” for the Cedars by connecting the 20-acre park directly to Cedars residents at the Ambassador and developing an oasis of sorts — the Ambassador Swim Club — for neighborhood residents to utilize.
“We want to make this an amenity not just for us, but the whole neighborhood,” he said.
The swim club would be built four-feet above the surface-grade parking lot to give visitors views of the downtown Dallas skyline.
With Four Corners Brewery slated to open its tap room to the Cedars neighborhood next month adjacent to the Ambassador, Lake said there’s a lot of energy in this part of the city. The developer also says he plans to have some synergy with the brewery and the Ambassador.
At one time, the stable house across Ervay Street (now the site of Four Corners Brewery) was connected to the hotel in the 1920s with the help of an underground tunnel that was used as a speakeasy entrance.
Lake and his team plans to convert the six-story, historic Ambassador into loft-style, micro-sized apartments totaling an average of 500 square feet. This initial phase of the property’s redevelopment is expected to cost about $24 million.
“After we looked at the structure, we felt like these suite sizes would make good micro units,” Lake said. “It’s edge-y for a person willing to be in a smaller space, but close to everything and within walking distance to downtown Dallas.”
The former hotel could be converted into about 103 micro-units, he said. Ambassador residents would have a rooftop terrace, tenant lounge, a coworking area totaling up to 4,000 square feet and a speakeasy within the basement.
Plans also include adding a 2,500-square-foot restaurant with a lounge area next to the Ambassador Swim Club that will be an amenity for the neighborhood and residents.
Dallas-based Merriman Anderson/Architects Inc. is the project architect.
The Ambassador property could include a second phase with a multi-story hotel fronting Interstate 30. If this part of the project moves forward, Lake said he would partner with a hotel developer on the project.
The development group is working secure historic state and federal tax credits to finance the redevelopment project. If all goes to plan, Lake said he could re-open the historic Ambassador to residents in 2019.