The sale of the old Carlton Hotel in downtown Tyler has closed, ending years of debate over what should happen with the deteriorating structure.

Tai Ly, a Dallas-based developer, has purchased the 15-story, 90,000-square-foot building from Smith County for $537,500, plus closing costs.

Ly first announced his intention to purchase the building in August and turn it into loft apartments. The deal had been in a four-month waiting period, and he finalized the paperwork with the Smith County government on Friday.

Smith County Commissioners Court had debated for years how the dilapidated building in downtown Tyler should be used. At one point, county officials considered spending $46 million to refurbish the old hotel for courthouse space.

“Returning the dilapidated Carlton Hotel complex back to a private business, with a plan to develop it in the next few years, is the highest and best long-term use for that property,” Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said. “This will help promote economic development in the county seat and serve to complement the city of Tyler’s long-standing efforts to revitalize downtown.”

Tom Mullins, CEO of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, said the move is good news for downtown “especially if the new owners go forward with the plans to renovate it.”

“It’s been decades of looking at a building that most people thought should be imploded, because it’s an eyesore,” Mullins said.

As part of the sale, Ly has agreed to apply for permits within three months, start construction within nine months, and make improvements to the property within 36 months. He must put at least $1 million into the property — including demolition and design fees — and spend the first $650,000 in the first 18 months.

The property, located at 106, 112 and 116 E. Elm St., was the 200-room luxury Carlton Hotel from 1954 to 1971.

At the time, it was considered an ultramodern high-rise hotel, with air conditioning, television sets, a rooftop pool with cabanas, a ballroom, a coffee shop and an automatic elevator, according to information provided by the county.

After the hotel closed, the building remained vacant until Smith County purchased it in 1977 for office space. The county moved its staff out of the building in 2013, and it has remained vacant.

Ly has said the building can hold from 80 to 100 apartments, with four to six units per floor. He wants to keep the pool and cabana.