An old gem with a new story

September 10, 2018
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DALLAS/FT WORTH - For many years, the 23-story Tower Petroleum Building, built in 1931, stood vacant. A once thriving zigzag art deco skyscraper was one of Dallas’ most marvelous office buildings. It was even occupied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

In late 2016, renovation of this iconic gem began to transform it into the luxury high-rise hotel, Cambria. The downtown building now contains 177 hotel rooms, as well as a restaurant/bar, fitness center, meeting space/work area, and a band rehearsal room for performers at the nearby Majestic Theater. ANDRES was the general contractor on this project, which is in conjunction with ANDRES’ neighboring project at 1900 Pacific Residences/Corrigan Tower.

Guestrooms were constructed using metal framing, designer patterned carpet, headboard features, and granite countertops on black chrome tubular metal frames. While existing and restored marble veneer walls were incorporated with new metal frame walls to renovate the existing elevator lobby and corridors. The existing millwork wall features and terrazzo floors were also restored.

Amenity Space on the first floor included the existing elevator lobby with granite floors and walls. New hardwood floors were installed in the restaurant with a custom millwork bar topped with a marble countertop with brass metal features as a general theme.

The building’s exterior was returned to its original beauty by restoring the masonry façade using polished black granite exterior on bottom floor with existing masonry façade above with detailed and patterned terra cotta stone accents and parapet caps.  Restored and regaled existing steel frame “accordion” style windows were also incorporated.

The most challenging historical preservation item was maintaining the design and finish of the existing elevator lobbies and corridor walls. Protecting the existing stone veneer on the lobby walls from major demolition, existing interior masonry, and metal frame walls was an everyday task that involved close supervision and temporary protection with insulation board and plywood.  The existing plaster walls along with the wood doors and stone base of the corridors on level five, 11,and 18 were maintained as well. The deteriorated plaster walls proved difficult to re-fortify, transition into new drywall, implement a code compliant fire rated assembly, and install new MEP systems. A specialty crew polished the metal and cleaned the glass, while an elevator crew replaced the light fixture. An experienced millwork carpenter crafted custom plates to lower each fixture clear of the new ceilings.  The corridors and elevator lobbies showcase patterned terrazzo with brass inlaid joints restored to original luster.

Masonry restoration had its own obstacles as well. The work consisting of re-pointing the grout joints, cleaning the façade, patching damaged or unsightly materials, and caulking the existing windows was done from swing stages hung from a new davit and tie back system. The davit system keeps all support systems independent of the irreplaceable terra cotta masonry parapet caps.  Accessing the building facade was challenging due to the adjacent property’s courtyard and the city pedestrian sidewalks. The building is now illuminated with RGB color changing LED fixtures. The installation of a new canopy and blade sign showed its complications when coordinating the attachment to the existing building. The original construction drawings were drafted by hand in 1930 and lacked information needed. This led to a forensic exercise with all parties to determine exactly what is behind the exteriors walls and how to create a strictly structurally attachment to the building.

The cutting edge architectural design and central location relative to Dallas’s business centers and entertainment attractions made it a desired location for business. “I think what really makes this project unique is the historic preservation of existing materials while implementing an “art deco” design with modern amenities and features. It brings a new energy to downtown Dallas while connecting you to the downtown of old,” says ANDRES Office Engineer, Jack Davis.

The owner, architect, engineer and ANDRES worked positively together to tackle challenging aspects that accompany an old existing building. Without the project team’s adaptive nature, the process would not have been possible.

ANDRES is a full-service general contractor with offices in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and Fort Worth, TX.