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Downtown Fort Worth could look different by 2023 with an expansion of the Omni

March 5,2020

See full Fort Worth Star-Telegram article by Luke Ranker here.

Downtown Fort Worth’s skyline will feel different in three years with a 400-room expansion of the Omni Hotel and the addition of a shorter tower on West Lancaster Avenue.

A $174 million expansion of the Omni would replace the Tarrant County College administration building with a multi-story hotel tower and convention space. Renderings show a roof top patio and deck over 14th street.

A separate $50 million project to the west involves an eight-story office or residential tower facing Lancaster on two blocks from Lamar Street to Monroe Street. At least 10,000 square feet of retail space would face the avenue.

Both projects are expected to be done by 2023 and would return government property to the tax roll.

The southern tip of downtown has been less active than other parts, but Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., said he expects increased development off Lancaster in the coming years. Until the late 1990s an elevated Interstate 30 ran above Lancaster, casting a shadow on the historic U.S. Post Office building and preventing development.

After nearly 25 years, Taft said the economy is prime for West Lancaster to redevelop.

“What you’re seeing now is the healing of the wounds the interstate carved through the south end of downtown,” Taft said.

Along with these two projects, three residential developments are in the works on the southern edge of downtown. Burnett Lofts, under construction at the northwest corner of Lamar and Lancaster, will bring more than 300 units. The 225-unit Kent Lofts will break ground later this year at 130 East Lancaster. Farther into the business district, Southern Land Company plans a 26-story luxury residential tower at 901 Commerce Street.

By the end of March, the Omni Hotel is expected to purchase the May Owen Center, Tarrant County College’s administration building at 1500 Houston Street, according to a city presentation. The college has wanted to sell the property since 2018 as it works to consolidate administrative offices.

An early rendering shows a more than 20-story tower that mimics the architecture of the hotel and condo space with a combination of a reflective glass and masonry. The tower sits on top a 50,000-square-foot meeting space that appears to have entrances along Lancaster Avenue and large bay windows. The concept includes a tree and shrub-lined rooftop patio adjacent to the new tower.

The special tax district would provide a $5 million grant to the Omni upon completion, according to the city’s presentation. An additional incentive package is under review and would require City Council action in the coming weeks, said Michael Hennig, the city’s strategic development coordinator.

The expansion will bring much needed hotel space to the downtown, said Visit Fort Worth CEO Bob Jameson. The city is in the early stages of preparing for a nearly $400 million expansion of the downtown convention center that may break ground by 2023, but even now conventions often struggle to find hotel space near downtown.

“It’s not just a matter of hotel rooms. They have to come with the right amenities,” Jameson said. “The Omni does an impressive customer-focused experience.”

Part of the convention expansion called for a 1,000 room hotel, possibly off Commerce Street. Jameson said additional hotel rooms will still be needed near the convention center, but the size of that project may change after the Omni expands.

Omni representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fewer details were available Thursday for the eight-story, 100,000-square-foot development planned at the western edge of the Lancaster corridor. Hennig said a tenant had been identified for the building’s office space, but the particulars were not ready to be made public.

The tower would face Lancaster and sit in front of a 390-space parking garage with entrances on Lamar Street. About 10,000 square feet would be used for retail and 50,000 to 80,000 square feet could be offices or apartments. If the space is residential, at least 20% of the units must be set aside for affordable housing. Those units would be split between residents making 80% of the area’s median income and those making 60% or below.

A vague rendering depicts the tower as about the same height as the historic Texas and Pacific warehouse across the street. Design guidelines stipulate architecture along Lancaster cannot exceed eight stories and must complement the historic post office, T&P Lofts and the warehouse.

The special tax district would contribute $4.2 million for landscaping, streetscaping and other work. No other incentives are planned for the development, Hennig said.

Taft said he was confident retail, office and apartment space would be successful at the site. It sits just on the north side of the Hemphill/Lamar connector that later this year will carry vehicle and pedestrian traffic under I-30 from the Near Southside to downtown.

“The two districts are definitely growing together,” Taft said.

Location Mentioned: Omni Fort Worth Hotel