First look: Renovation of historic Cabana Hotel

September 19, 2019

Redevelopment of the landmark Cabana Hotel on Stemmons Freeway will take 24 months.

Developers redoing a historic downtown Dallas hotel have finished demolition and are ready to start reconstruction of the high-rise.

Centurion American Development Group purchased the landmark Cabana Hotel in 2017 and have been working on plans to restore the buildings.

The 10-story hotel on Stemmons Freeway was built in 1962 by Las Vegas hotelier Jay Sarno, who also built the famed Caesar's Palace.

Centurion American CEO Mehrdad Moayedi, who redeveloped downtown's Statler Hotel, plans to bring the storied property back to life as an edgy hotel.

"The view of downtown from this building is the best there is," said Moayedi, giving a tour of the gutted building. "We are finishing up our plans.

"It's taken us two years to get here," he said. "Hopefully in about 69 days, we will start putting it back together."

The project will cost almost $100 million.

Famous for hosting a parade of celebrities from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin and Richard Nixon, the hotel closed in the 1970s and was later converted into a minimum security county jail.

After sitting vacant for several years, Centurion American bought the building for $8.1 million from Dallas County.

Moayedi said his firm is still working on details of tax-increment financing and historic renovation incentives for the property.

He said it will take about 24 months to rebuild the Cabana into a 268-room hotel.

"We're going to have about five different types of rooms," he said. "There are some two-story rooms and two-story lanai rooms overlooking the pool."

The pool deck facing downtown will keep its mushroom-shaped patio covers and will be enlarged with a clubhouse and more water features.

"We will have a Las Vegas-style pool with a surf machine," Moayedi said.

Other plans include a speakeasy in the basement, a rooftop lounge and courts for basketball and tennis.

And the original sign on Stemmons will be re-created.

The developer also plans to build an apartment tower on top of the adjoining parking garage in the future.

Merriman Anderson Architects is designing the project.

The hotel, originally the Cabana Motor Hotel, was one of what original builder Sarno hoped would be a national chain of similar properties. The Dallas building was financed in part by actress Doris Day.

Like the original Caesar's Palace, it has an exterior covered in decorative concrete screens that will be preserved in the renovation.