DALLAS-Crescent Real Estate Equities Co. and Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. LLC today will ceremoniously christen the construction start of a $195.8-million landmark development. The Chevy Chase, MD Ritz-Carlton is planting its first hotel flag in Texas and first residential development west of the Mississippi River with the 217-room, 70-condo project.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences will sit at 2525 N. Pearl St. on 3.4 acres of a Crescent-owned block, an Uptown stake with room for complementary space. The Ritz-Carlton project, announced in April 2004, is beginning with 70% of the condos pre-sold, primarily picked off by Dallas/Fort Worth buyers, John Goff, vice chairman and CEO of the Fort Worth-based Crescent, tells GlobeSt.com. “We’re working on new contracts every day,” he says. The Ritz-Carlton is scheduled for a 2007 completion.

Today’s 12:15 p.m. groundbreaking boasts a star-studded lineup of city and corporate officials. The 21-story Ritz-Carlton was designed by the renowned New York City architect, Robert A.M. Stern, with Dallas-based HKS Inc. as part of the design team. Frank Nicholson Inc. of Concord, MA designed the lobby floors while the Dallas firms of KM+P and Hayslip Design Associates Inc. worked with Stern to ensure floor plans are reflective of Dallas’ style. Manhattan Construction Co., headquartered in Tulsa, OK, is the general contractor.

Crescent is the sole owner, but a partnership stake is sure to be offered at some point in time, just as it’s done with its other premier properties. The Ritz-Carlton’s first eight floors will be hotel space, designed with a 10,000-sf ballroom, private meeting rooms, full-service spa and fitness facility; the upper bank is reserved for condos with all hotel amenities at owners’ doorsteps. “There’s a lot of people in Dallas who want this level of services,” Goff says.

The condos, ranging from 1,800 sf to 6,700 sf, are tagged from $800,000 to more than $6 million or $445 per sf to $896 per sf, the highest for any property type in Dallas/Fort Worth’s history, according to a local industry source. Before the Ritz, residential rates averaged $200 per sf and units cost $400,000 to about $2 million.

The REIT’s Crescent, a 1.1-million-sf, European-style trio of office towers and 220-room hotel, long ago set the development tone for the always-strong Uptown submarket, where product regardless of type seems destined for success. But, the Ritz-Carlton, two years in the making, is the crown jewel amid a series of construction cranes for mostly high-end condo developments playing off the synergy of the city’s bid to achieve a 24/7, cosmopolitan ranking.

Goff says Crescent never had second thoughts about its plan to develop the banked land, encompassing at least two city blocks. “When we really decided to pull the trigger, we had a deal cut with Ritz,” he says. “We were very confident about the project and we already had the land. It’s only felt better and better along the way. It caps a lot of hard work by a lot of people and a lot of cooperation from the city.” As for Crescent’s remaining acreage, he says “nothing’s been announced yet, but obviously those are things we continue to think about.”

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