If you look skyward, particularly in the east end of downtown Dallas, you see what has become almost a small forest of construction cranes. In the west end, the 1,000-room, nearly two-year-old Hyatt Regency Hotel is adding space for 400 cars behind its silver-glass exterior, reflecting the busily building city around it.
Alongside burgeon the elliptical red girders of the $24.6 million sports arena, now at the first-level construction stage.
Back to the east, where small frame houses long have stood, are the enlarged charcoal glass towers of the new 65-acre Plaza of the Americas.
The $100 million, 2 million-sqaure-foot business and entertainment complex is already the new home of the Texas Commerce bank, member of the $8 billion Texas Commerce Bancshares, Inc.
In addition to offices, shops and restaurants, it will also house the elegant hotel of Trust Houses Forte, the first one to be built in the United States for the British-based company. The corporation is a vast international web of elegant lodgings, leisure businesses and catering enterprises.
The "diamond" in this opulent setting will be the millpond-shaped ice-skating arena and ice chalet, surrounded by the 15-story enclosed grand atrium, beautified with trees, flowers and plants.
The complex includes two 25-story office towers with 1.2 million square feet of energy-efficient office space within the spandrel window-walled facade. The 15-story hotel, to be operated in the European tradition, will low-key its 442 rooms for de luxe international and local traveler use and some smaller executive meetings, rather than courting the buzzing convention business.
Primary developers are Toddie Lee Wynne Jr., second-generation president of the American Liberty Oil Co., and a Dallas native, and second-generation attorney Clyde C. Jackson Jr., an earnest young man in his 30s who is managing partner.
Saudi Research & Deveopment Corp., through a subsidiary, is a general partner. Trust House Forte Inc. is the limited partner.
Financing, which the developers believe is a first locally for such a major project, involves a consortium of Northwestern Mutual Life, American National Insurance, Southwestern Life Insurance, Pacific Mutual and Southland Life Insurance. Construction financing comes from Continental Illinois National Bank of Chicago, First National Bank in Dallas and Westinghouse Credit Corp. of Pittsburgh.
Dallas-based architects, who have had a connection with many structures in the galloping growth of the Southwest, are Harwood K. Smith and Partners, architects, engineers and planners for the new shape against the Dallas skyline.
In keeping with the trend to make business buildings "living centers," Plaza of the Americas will provide a full-facility athletic club as well as a sauna and private dining rooms. For sun-frazzled visitors and Dallasites alike in the long summer months (and mild year-round climate), the new approach of an ice arena as a dynamic art form rather than a static one, is welcome, Clyde Jackson said.
"Besides providing a changing scene all day, the arena attracts a lot of people watchers," he said.
The plaza arena is the second in Dallas. One recently opened in the giant Prestonwood Mall in the far suburbs. The Galleria's arena in Houston, part of the hotel-shopping mall, has attracted both young and old for several years now.
Although Plaza of the Americas was planned as a "corporate environment of excellence," according to Jackson, the shops, stores and restaurants, as well as the fountain and waterfall-embellished courtyard seven feet below street level, will invite the public to rest and be refreshed.
Retail shops are "a concept appropriate to a downtown population as it exists in Dallas, and not transplanted from Toronto or Atlanta," said Jackson.
Dining will range from a sophisticated cuisine served from Waterford crystal in the posh restaurants to gourmet hamburgers. Skyways will link the plaza complex with the nearby Southland Center, home of the parent insurance company and other offices and the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.
The teeming activity all over downtown Dallas (mostly now in the day but building for nighttime) is just a 10-minute walk away and two blocks from the freeways to all of Dallas, the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and the mid-cities, stretching to Fort Worth 30 miles to the west.
Of the giant construction equipment digging the bowels of downtown Dallas into new outlines in the sky, Jackson said:
"Downtown Dallas is coming into a whole new era. It now is a truly international city. With the direct overseas flight from the Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport, people are moving in who will expect a quality life downtown.
"One-half of the plaza's retail space is leased, and the South Tower was leased by topping-out time. The new Bryan Place housing development nearby, underway after years of labor by builder Dave Fox and the City Council for land acquisition, is already 70 percent presold."
Anybody expecting to find cowboys and Indians in Dallas will be disappointed.