June 15, 2017

Investment in a Forgotten Hotel Gave This Neighborhood New Life

The interior courtyard at the Belmont shows the eclectic architecture.

photo by: Nate/Flickr/CC BY NC ND 2.0

The Belmont Hotel is made up of five different buildings.

West of downtown Dallas, Texas, on a hill that offered an expansive view of the city, sits the Belmont Hotel. Originally called the Belmont Motor Hotel, it was a beacon to travelers driving through the city who needed a place to rest on their journey. By the late 1990s, it was a derelict structure that obscured the unique history of 20th-century motor courts.

The hotel opened in 1946 along Fort Worth Avenue, the major passageway for those traveling between Fort Worth and Dallas. Its heyday lasted for less than three decades, though, due to the construction of Interstate 30 in 1957 that rerouted drivers. With the passage of time, the Oak Cliff neighborhood where the Belmont Hotel is located in faced a slow decline that resulted in the neglect of its building stock and dampened its appeal to locals.

This loss was doubly felt for the neighborhood. Not only was the neighborhood's charm fading fast, but the hotel was designed by a locally renowned architect named Charles Stevens Dilbeck. His mid-century work is found all over Dallas—more than 600 structures are attributed to him. The Belmont is a traditional example of Dilbeck's style, which favored asymmetrical exteriors and ample use of stucco and stone. Its dilapidated appearance at the end of the 20th century greatly contrasted with how Dilbeck originally envisioned his hotel.

In 1999, however, Oak Cliff began to change for the better. That year, Fort Worth Avenue Development Group was established by neighbors who were frustrated with their neighborhood's decline and the lasting visual display of derelict buildings like the Belmont. That same year, developer Monte Anderson purchased the hotel with the goal of building a high-rise that took advantage of its hilltop location. However, Anderson changed his mind after touring a similar motor court hotel that had recently been revamped into a trendy boutique hotel.

Renovating the hotel cost a little over $3 million, a pricey sum on a project in which a positive outcome was not guaranteed. However, the project qualified for federal historic tax credits, a vital tool that attracts private capital toward projects that otherwise would be difficult to finance. For the Belmont, more than $527,000 in historic tax credits helped Anderson turn the project into one that was historically sensitive and that honored Dilbeck's original design.

Today, the 64-room hotel has updated furnishings, fresh coats of paint, and a bar with an impressive view of the Dallas skyline. Most nights, bands give concerts on the lawn outside with the Dallas skyline as their backdrop.

The Belmont's transformation has contributed to the revitalization of Oak Cliff. More developers and residents are seeing opportunity in its buildings, and local entrepreneurs view it as a haven to try out new business ideas at little risk. The neighborhood is coming back to life while honoring its historic heritage.

Meghan White is a historic preservationist and an assistant editor for Preservation magazine. She has a penchant for historic stables, absorbing stories of the past, and one day rehabilitating a Charleston single house.

mwhite@savingplaces.org

Act now to show your members of Congress that you are steadfast in support of the historic tax credit’s track record for creating jobs, revitalizing historic communities, and preserving our history.

Act Now