Iconic Building: Reunion Tower

No feature of the Dallas skyline cuts as iconic of a silhouette as Reunion Tower. With a stalk-like structure crowned by a bright, glittery sphere, Reunion Tower resembles a dandelion — albeit a very futuristic one. As such, it hearkens back to the city’s prairie-bound past while simultaneously embodying its skyscraper-studded present.

But Reunion Tower is as much a vantage as it is a focal point. Thanks to its famous observation deck, it’s also the place Dallasites love to bring out-of-town visitors to show off all our city has to offer. Reunion Tower is also rich in history. From the early days of its construction to the world-class attractions that are new to its unique interior, this Downtown landmark has more than a few tales to tell.

Erected in 1978 by The Beck Group, Reunion Tower was the most prominent development to be included in a citywide urban redevelopment plan. The hotel sitting next to the tower, the Hyatt Regency Dallas, was also built during this time. Once completed, the tower sat 561 feet above the city and eventually settled in as the 15th-tallest building in Dallas. When it first opened, it even hosted sports radio station KOAX-FM (now KRLD-FM). Their tagline? “Live twenty-four hours a day from five hundred feet above the city.”

As to the significance of the name “Reunion Tower,” it has everything to do with one prominent Dallasite’s love of local lore. The entire Reunion endeavor (which eventually included Reunion Arena as well, now the site of Reunion Park) was spearheaded by John Scovell, then-CEO of Woodbine Development Corporation. Scovell was fascinated with La Réunion, a 19th-century French settlement located not far from the site chosen for the project. Founded by followers of the socialist utopian thinker Charles Fourier, La Réunion’s residents were only able to keep their community viable for few years. Yet, thanks to Scovell, that nearly forgotten experiment is now a name synonymous with Dallas.

In the present day, Reunion Tower serves mostly as a tourist destination, as anyone who’s been inside the magnificent three-story ball can testify. Upon entry, an elevator transports guests 50 stories up via a scenic (or nerve-wracking, if you’re afraid of heights) 68-second ride to the top. Once there, and depending on the weather, visitors can sometimes take in panoramic views that extend as far as Fort Worth, which sits 32 miles away.

However, the tower isn’t only impressive during daylight hours. In fact, nighttime is when it quite literally shines. The exterior of The Ball is covered with a network of 259 color-changing LEDs. These custom lights can even be programmed to display various messages based on the season or a special event taking place in the city. And, because they are incredibly bright, these lights are visible out to 15 miles from the city center.

Still, some more recent arrivals to the city may be surprised to learn that Reunion Tower hasn’t always been this accessible to the public. It was closed for major renovations starting in November 2007 and didn’t reopen until 2013, when its new GeO-Deck was unveiled. The GeO-Deck features a geodesic pattern inspired by The Ball’s design. It flows across the deck’s ceiling and walls, the latter of which are equipped with 20 interactive touchscreens. Known as “The Halo,” this feature encourages guests to explore landmarks, restaurants, museums and hidden gems in the city by manipulating cameras mounted outside the observation deck. There’s also an outdoor deck area which offers high-powered telescopes for even more in-depth site-seeing. In addition to the original construction, The Beck Group also led the renovation effort, but their work in Dallas isn’t done yet. Up next for them is Pacific Plaza, a new neighborhood park located in the heart of Downtown Dallas.

Aside from the GeO-Deck, Reunion Tower is also home to another impressive attraction. On the top floor sits the famous fine-dining restaurant Five Sixty (the name is a nod to the height of the tower), created by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. This revolving restaurant, which opened in 2009, treats diners to a 360-degree view of the city with floor-to-ceiling windows. Guests enjoy a contemporary Asian menu and an extensive wine list featuring over 400 labels, making it the ultimate Downtown destination for a very special evening on the town.

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