Dallas architecture firm to help Ambassador bring 'tiny home' living to the Big D

The historic Ambassador will be converted into a micro-unit community near downtown Dallas.
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By Candace Carlisle – Senior Reporter, Dallas Business Journal
Dec 12, 2017, 6:08am
Dallas developer Jim Lake is readying the historic Ambassador for a major redevelopment, which will transform the vacant hotel in the Cedars neighborhood in downtown Dallas into mecca for 'tiny home' living in the Big D with the help of a local architecture firm.

The 112-year-old hotel, originally called the Majestic Hotel, was considered one of Dallas' most luxurious properties when the six-story structure was built in the early 1900s. In its heyday, the historic hotel played host to former U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Woodrow Wilson, as well as hotel guests like Sarah Bernhardt and other actors of the era.

Now, the historic hotel will get a new booking as a "tiny home concept," community with 103 micro-unit homes, with space-saving designs meant to use every inch of space.

"We are having fun refining the designs of these smaller homes," Lake, founder of Dallas-based Jim Lake Companies, told the Dallas Business Journal. "We are really bringing in the tiny home concept and using every cubic inch with sometimes dual uses in some of the spaces. We think the market will really love them."

The homes in the Ambassador will average about 532 square feet of living space. This redevelopment will help cater to the growing demand for affordable homes in Dallas' urban core.

"We'll have some selected units with Murphy beds that will really make them work," Lake added. "Or we have a built-in desk for workspace that can convert into a dining room table. It serves a dual use and saves someone from buying a table."

The Ambassador will also include a 4,500-square-foot restaurant, a 3,000-square-foot coworking concept operated by the Jim Lake Cos., and a 2,500-square-foot speakeasy. The restaurant and historic speakeasy (the Ambassador basement was previously used to bootleg booze) will be marketed prior to completion of the project.

Dallas-based Merriman Anderson/Architects Inc. is the project architect. Dallas-based Azteca-Omega Group, led by Luis Spinola, is the general contractor on the redevelopment.

This will be another major redevelopment in downtown Dallas after the recent completion of construction on the historic Dallas High School, and is a significant project, said Jerry Merriman, founder of Merriman Anderson/Architects Inc.

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The Dallas Business Journal recently sat down to chat with Merriman about his firm's work on some major projects in Dallas-Fort Worth.

"We are really restoring the historic character of the building that was removed in the 1980s, and we'll bring back that historical feel," Merriman said.

The ownership group is also working to reconnect the Ambassador with the neighboring Heritage Village in the Cedars neighborhood, a connection made in the past, he added.

Aimee Sanborn, a partner and team leader at the firm, said the designs will bring the original finish to the hotel, with a more clean and modern design.

"This design was really conducive to the existing layout of the building and it was easy to work within the existing architecture," she said.

The redevelopment is being designed to qualify for state and federal historic tax credits. Construction is slated to begin in early 2018.