The Uptown Dallas Miracle
Uptown Dallas has become one of the envies of the nation. It’s a powerhouse district with regional and national headquarters, a thriving arts district, and a vibrant residential community centered on Turtle Creek.
The story of the Uptown Dallas Miracle starts in the late 1970s and reads a little like a modern melodrama with heroes, a smart woman, and even a villain. We can take some valuable financial lessons from the story of Uptown’s metamorphosis into what it is today.
A Smart Woman with an Inheritance
Carolyn Rose Hunt and her brothers Bunker and Nelson inherited a fortune from their father, H.L. Hunt, when he passed away in 1974 at 85. His net worth was between two and three billion dollars.
The two brothers quickly lost about a billion dollars in the silver market, but Carolyn Rose Hunt bought and developed property. First, she bought a mansion and installed The Mansion on Turtle Creek in 1980, which is still an icon of fine dining today. The Mansion was the anchor for Uptown.
Carolyn founded Rosewood Hotels & Resorts in 1980 and purchased 20 acres, an erstwhile car lot, just south of The Mansion. At that time, there wasn’t much between downtown and Highland Park except the Woodall Rogers “canyon,” and there was still plenty of open land. She conceived of the first multi-use development in Uptown. Starting in 1982 and finishing in 1984, she built the five-star Crescent Court Hotel and multi-use development on the property.
In the beginning, the multi-use piece filled slowly, so Carolyn gave tenants one year free with a five-year lease. The complex became a de facto financial headquarters for North Texas as multiple financial services firms moved in.
The Arts District Grows
Construction on Trammel Crow Center wound up in 1985, and the Crow family turned toward the building the downtown Dallas Arts District. The Dallas Museum of Art moved to its current location in the 1970s, with construction spanning a decade. The Morton H. Myerson Symphony Center opened its doors in 1989. The Crow Museum of Asian Art opened in 1998, and the Nasher Sculpture Center opened in 2003.
These arts organizations are just the beginning. The Dallas Arts District website lists many other performing and visual arts organizations in the area today, creating a vital arts-centered district.
So far, we have Carolyn Rose Hunt, Margaret Crow, and Trammel Crow as heroes in our story of the Uptown Miracle. Ron Kirk is another. Ron was the Mayor of Dallas at the time and had been Secretary of State under Anne Richards.
Ron felt it was time for a new sports arena. He teamed up with Ross Perot and Hillwood Development and conceived a plan to take some old grain silos and foreclosed properties and build an upgraded arena.
Laura Miller was a Dallas City Council Member at the time. As City Council was working on the vision for the American Airlines Center, Laura made multiple objections, and it ultimately required a bond election to build the arena, delaying the project by years.
American Airlines Center was conceived in the early 1990s and was ultimately completed in 2000, rehabilitating a formerly blighted area. It’s not far from the Crescent, and to this day, people come to dinner at the Mansion, then go to a game at the American Airlines Center.
More Uptown Development
The W Hotel and the W Condos were early entries in the uptown condo rage. Other condos in Turtle Creek struggled for the first few years because of the 2000 Tech Wreck. After the W went in, Uptown began to fill in between the American Airlines Center and the Crescent.
In Uptown Dallas, you can see I35 and the Trinity River from almost any office. The vision Ron Kirk, Hillwood, and others had was to attract the Dallas Cowboys and put them between the freeway and the Trinity River. The idea was to have the Stars and the Mavs on one side, go over a sky bridge, and the Dallas Cowboys would be there.
Our villain again enters to squash this vision, objecting to the city spending money on infrastructure. It was a grand vision, but it never came to fruition.
Bridging the Canyon
The next crucial addition to Uptown was Klyde Warren Park, completed in 2012, which created the sky bridge over Woodall Rogers Freeway that finally connected Uptown and Downtown Dallas. Billionaire Kelcy Warren donated $10 million to build the park and named it after his son, Klyde.
The 5.2-acre park, operated by the Woodall Rogers Park Foundation, is open to the public from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. The park cemented the connection between Uptown and downtown Dallas.
The Uptown Miracle Today
Uptown is now one of the top high-rise-living powerhouses in the country. Proximity to businesses close by enables many residents to walk to work. Goldman Sachs is locating a regional headquarters in Uptown to employ about 5,000 people, further affirming Uptown as a financial district. All of that began with Carolyn Rose Hunt.
The Smart Woman Hero
When the McGowan Group moved to the Crescent in 2000, Carolyn was still there almost every day, building the Rosewood Hotel Chain, which has about 35 hotels worldwide. Carolyn sold the hotel corporation to a Hong Kong investor for about $250 million. The Crescent recently changed hands for over $500 million. Carolyn Rose Hunt passed away in 2018 at the age of 95.
The Uptown Dallas Miracle occurred because of the vision of Carolyn Rose Hunt. She is one investor that Texans can learn from in her fortitude, her creativity, and what she accomplished with her family and her community.