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Behind the deal: Here's why Fort Worth selected Dart Interests for the Central Library sale

June 7,2023

See full Dallas Business Journal article by Spencer Brewer here.

With the sale of the Fort Worth Central Library building, the city has paved the way for a sweeping mixed-use development in the heart of downtown. The forthcoming project will mark the latest high-rise development to grace Fort Worth’s skies.

Dart Interests recently acquired Fort Worth’s Central Library for $18 million, setting the stage for development that may include multiple 20-story buildings. The Central Library building, located at 500 West 3rd Street, lies within walking distance of Sundance Square.

While it’s still too early for definitive plans, a project featuring two towers makes the most sense for the site, the developer said. 

Prior to starting the process of selling the property, the city realized that the library had more space than it needed. City leaders began exploring options for bringing in a significant development to the space, said Todd Burnette, executive managing director at JLL. 

The city engaged JLL to oversee the sale and development of the property, as well as to consult on relocation of the central library services.

“The city manager said (he wanted) a mixed-use development there that’s at least $200 million in development,” Burnette said. “When that gets put on the tax rolls, that makes a huge difference on revenue that’s coming in.”

The forthcoming project represents Dallas-based Dart Interests’ first project in North Texas. The company is a single-source, family-backed real estate investment and development firm. The firm’s capital provider is billionaire Kenneth Dart – of the family that owns Dart Container Corp., the producer of the well-known Solo Cup.

The company has a swath of extensive projects under its belt. These projects span seven states and feature asset types including multifamily, hospitality and resort, mixed-use, for-sale condominiums and some industrial projects.

The Central Library project will likely feature two towers, with a final price tag far exceeding the $200 million mark the city set. The forthcoming development may feature a variety of uses, including a residential office and retail.

There were a number of factors that made Dart Interests stand out in the bidding process. The city had a requirement that the development include a new space for the library, giving a lot of potential buyers pause. However, Dart Interests was on board with including a library space from day one.

Additionally, the sale occurred in an environment where interest rates were already climbing. In the end, there were three qualified bidders for the property.

“I remember hearing from some other commercial brokers that (we) were lucky to get the (Central) Library contract, that’ll be easy to sell,” said David Berzina, vice president at JLL. “It wasn’t.”

The Central Library development will join a slate of projects reshaping downtown Fort Worth, including the Deco 969 residential high-rise and the Texas A&M-Fort Worth project.

Aside from Frost Tower, there hasn’t been much recent office development in Fort Worth, but that may soon change, Burnette said.

“I think that’s why Dart was attracted to the city,” he said. “They see future things happening here which will only increase the value of their property as well.”

Locations Mentioned: Frost Tower Fort Worth, Texas A&M Fort Worth