The Smith County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved the sale of the old Carlton Hotel. 

Dallas-based developer Tai Ly is under contract for the building with an offer of $537,500. 

The agreement, signed Tuesday, kicks off a 120-day feasibility period for the developer to weigh if he wants to take on the project.

The property is scheduled to close on Jan. 15, 2018.

Ly said he plans to turn the building into lofts or apartments, and preliminarily estimates the space can turn into 80 to 100 living spaces, with four to six units per floor. The building has 15 stories, plus a basement, but does not have a designated 13th floor.

Ly said he also wants to keep the pool and cabana area on top of the building’s attached parking garage.

A feasibility study completed last year showed it would cost an estimated $46 million to turn the Carlton into an adequate facility to house the county’s district courts. Those numbers weren't feasible for the county.

Ly said he doesn’t expect that his project will cost nearly that amount, but didn’t go into specifics. The county’s plan included removing every other story to create tall ceilings for courtrooms. Ly said he wants to keep all the levels.

Ly said the first task would be to power wash and clean up the outside and to start replacing broken windows. He plans to bring an architect to help develop a vision for the building's future.

Part of the requirement to bid on the building was to release financial statements to prove developers had the pockets to take on the large project

After the close of the property, Ly will be required complete the project within three years and to get all the necessary permitting paperwork to start construction on the property within 90 days.

The county stipulated the developer must spend at least $1 million on the project and spend at least $650,000 in the first 18 months.

The county commissioned Burns Commercial Properties to help find a suitable buyer for the eyesore in downtown Tyler’s skyline.

Under the contract with Burns Commercial Properties, the broker had a year to find a suitable buyer for the Carlton.

Smith County will require the developer to get the necessary building permits within 90 days after the property closes.

Burns Commercial’s services will receive 6 percent of the selling price as a brokerage fee. That fee will be paid by the county, not the buyer.

The buyer, however, will pay closing costs, according to the agreement.

Ly said he also is working on restoring a historic building into apartments in Galveston. The property was purchased from Texas A&M University at Galveston. Construction on that project is slated for the end of the year, Ly said. 



From 1954 to 1971, the Carlton was one of Tyler’s most luxurious hotels.

The 115,000-square-foot structure, built in 1954 at the corner of Broadway Avenue and Elm Street, had a three-story, 126-space parking garage as well as a rooftop swimming pool and cabana.

The county bought it in 1977 and began moving offices there in 1979, after some remodeling.

The building housed the sheriff’s office and probation department for decades. 

The offices slowly were moved into renovated facilities in the 2000s, and the last Smith County office moved out of the space in late 2013. Since then, it’s sat vacant.


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