Head of Warwick Hotels chain says some renovations are planned, but Melrose will retain distinct character
It’s no accident that the restaurant inside the Melrose Hotel is called The Landmark because that’s exactly what the building is.
An Oak Lawn institution for more than 80 years, it shares duties with the new Legacy of Love monument at the Oak Lawn Triangle as the gateway to Dallas’ main entertainment gayborhood.
The community around Cedar Springs has been protective, even proud of the Melrose over the years as a great place to send family and friends when visiting, as a central meeting space for holding fundraisers and events and as brunch-and-cocktail headquarters.
“The Melrose has been a great friend of the Oak Lawn neighborhood,” said Michael Milliken, president of the Oak Lawn Committee, which meets monthly inside the hotel. The hotel is even a sponsor of the monument.
So the announcement last week that the Melrose is being bought up by a European hotel corporation led to the natural question: Will the essence of what has made the Melrose a favorite of gay Dallas remain?
No need to worry, insists Richard Chiu, head of Warwick Hotels. Over the course of 2007, they do expect renovation of some of the rooms and public spaces. But the character of the hotel will remain the same.
“The present general manager, Tom Baker, will continue in his position and has already told me he cannot even change the carpeting in the Library Bar without controversy,” Chiu said.
Sherry Briggs, newly-elected president of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, said, “I’m thrilled that they are here and hope that they will continue to support us and still be a member of the chamber and a presence for us.”
“The Melrose has been a landmark for many years and we look forward to having it be supportive of the neighborhood,” echoed Milliken.
The purchase of the hotel which will result in a slight name change, to the Warwick Melrose will be made official on Feb. 8, making Dallas only the fifth city in the United States with a Warwick property. The chain originated with Chiu’s purchase, in 1980, of New York’s Warwick Hotel, built in the 1920s by William Randolph Hearst; the company, headquartered in Paris, now owns 43 resorts and hotels, mostly in Europe.
The purchase is merely the latest in many hotel-related goings-on in Dallas of late. In addition to the development of the W Hotel downtown, the Hotel Palomar on Mockingbird Lane and the upcoming Ritz Carlton, Warwick joins a growing number of companies competing for Dallas’ hospitality business.
“Dallas is a competitive market and always has been. From a hotelier’s point of view, it is an important gateway city. A lot of traffic passes through DFW, including from Latin America, which is becoming more and more important” to the national economy, Chiu said. “Dallas also has a broad business base, not just oil and technology.”
“How wonderful that they chose Dallas, especially with Dallas trying to bring more business here,” said Briggs. “It’s another opportunity for the chamber to embrace another company and work in partnership with large chains.”
Warwick acquired the Melrose not just because Chiu wanted a property in Dallas to take advantage of its business climate, but also because its style was similar to other hotels in the group.
Along with the Stoneleigh, the Mansion on Turtle Creek and the Adolphus, the Melrose is considered one of the “grande dames” of Dallas hotels, Chiu said.
“You don’t get the feeling you’re walking into a train station,” he says. “This is very much in the tradition of Warwick hotels a home-away-from-home feel.”
Foodies may be excited to learn one goal Chiu has set for the Melrose. While its Landmark Restaurant was well-regarded, Chiu says Warwick is accustomed to featuring Michelin-rated restaurants in its properties. Look for current executive chef Joel Hartloff to have a go at raising the bar of the cuisine there even higher.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, January 12, 2006.