Photo by Christina Hughes Babb. Art by Jessica Turner.
A hotel property that police say has been a hotbed of criminal activity could become an apartment complex if the Dallas City Council approves the owner’s rezoning request.
The more neighbors learn about the New York City-based landlords, the angrier and less supportive of that application they’ve become.
The Extended Stay America on Vantage Point near Greenville Avenue, owned by hospitality equity group Three Wall Capital, has a recent past marked by drug trafficking, sex crimes and murder, police told Lake Highlands residents at an October meeting to discuss the rezoning case. In fact, two of the hotel’s former staffers are in federal prison after a Drug Enforcement Agency bust that resulted in 44 arrests, said Dallas Police Lt. Brian Payne, who oversees the Northeast Division’s Project Safe Neighborhood team.
“This property has a torrid history,” he said.
For the past year the address has been an official Habitual Crime Property, which makes it subject to regular inspections from Dallas’ community prosecutor’s office.
“People staying on the property weren’t the best clientele for the area,” District 10 community prosecutor Ariya Villegas told attendees. But since the city stepped in, improvements — security gates, cameras and towing enforcement — have been made.
Since it’s a hotel, inhabitants do not undergo background checks or sign leases, she said.
The addition of those processes would be one potential benefit of the proposed zoning change that would allow conversion of the property from hotel to multifamily, said Council member Adam McGough, whose district includes the hotel.
“In theory, if you turn this into multifamily, and you manage it appropriately, get the proper security measures in place, it’s better than it is now,” McGough said.
He added, “But I don’t get a great feeling that they are going to do the right thing.”
Attendees also expressed little confidence that the property owners will do more than the bare minimum in the interest of public safety.
Landlords were unaware, misinformed by their management and therefore not culpable in the previously mentioned crimes, said DPD’s Payne. But McGough said he thinks they should have known what was going on, and several neighbors, including Richardson ISD school board member Rachel McGowan, said they blamed the owners for turning a blind eye.
The site is approximately 2.881 acres. The hotel has 136 rooms in 70,828 square feet of floor area. Villegas added that the occupancy rate to date is only about 20%.
The site is zoned an MC-4 Multiple Commercial District. The proposed MU-3(A) Mixed Use District would allow for the adaptive reuse of the existing hotel building into a multifamily complex.
Zoning consultant Rob Baldwin says the apartments would be rented at market rate — he guesses about $800-$1,100 for what he says are mostly tiny units, some smaller than a typical hotel room, but with a kitchen and accommodations for longer tenancy.
The City of Dallas, like most of the United States, is facing a shortage of housing for all income levels. According to an article in globest.com, turning extended stay hotels into apartments is the latest solution to the housing supply problem.
“The biggest reason for this trend is the confluence of strong demand for apartment units, which is caused by numerous issues that have been percolating for years across the country, and reduced demand for hotel units, mostly due to the pandemic,” David Reina, a partner in Morris, Manning & Martin Hospitality Practice, told globest.com.
Three Wall Capital’s application to rezone the hotel has been recommended for approval by the City Plan Commission and was delayed once at City Council.
McGough says before the case appears again on the council agenda Dec. 14, he wants to ensure all community stakeholders are engaged and have the opportunity to provide feedback.
The most popular suggestion at the October town hall: Delay the rezoning approval and make the owners of Extended Stay America prove that they can fix their crime problem.
Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared October 18.