Pioneering Fort Worth Hotel Celebrates 40 Years With a Showy Renovation — How The Worthington Stays Relevant

April 11,2021


See full PaperCity Magazine article by Courtney Dabney here.

The Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel is worthy of celebration. This month marks 40 years since its debut. It also signals the completion of its $8-million renovation by DiamondRock Hospitality. Fittingly, Fort Worth’s finest showed up to an invitation-only, soiree in its honor.

The party was hosted by Worthington general manager Drew Hayden and Visit Fort Worth president and CEO Bob Jameson. Guests enjoyed pan-Latin bites and cocktails conjured up by celebrity chef Richard Sandoval, whose game-changing Toro Toro restaurant is located within the hotel.

A selection of tequila tastings and Toro Toro nibbles, including tuna ceviche, grilled lamb chops and elote cups, were scattered throughout many locations in the hotel. Nibbling brought a full tour of The Worthington, from the gorgeous new lobby to the Van Cliburn Suite, through the main ballroom and onto the open air terrace.

International art dealer, author and film producer Ron Hall and his wife Beth. Hall attended the hotel’s opening 40 years ago as well. 

The Worthington, located at 200 Main Street, was built on the site of the former Leonard’s Department Store, which was itself a city changer launched by legendary Fort Worth retailer Marvin Leonard. The hotel, which debuted in April of 1981, was the first big piece of the puzzle that started drawing people back to downtown Fort Worth. It essentially launched the area now known as Sundance Square.

On the heels of opening The Worthington Fort Worth Hotel, city shaker Ed Bass then opened his Caravan of Dreams just down the street in 1983, bringing a world-class jazz music venue to town. (Caravan of Dreams was housed in the building now inhabited by Fort Worth’s beloved Reata Restaurant.)

The rest is history. The resurgence of what is one of the most successful and widely-imitated urban renewals in the nation (Sundance Square) spread from there.

With The Worthington 40 years old and still featuring many of its distinctively ’80s design features, DiamondRock Hospitality, which owns and manages a portfolio of 31 premium hotels in the United States (this is its only Texas property), knew the hotel was in need of more than a little nip and tuck. It was time for a full facelift. That process began four years ago, and now the transformation is complete.

A total reboot of The Worthington Renaissance Hotel’s lobby and bar area is noteworthy. Two dated water features in the mezzanine were also removed, making way for a now expansive seating space. The corridor connecting the restaurant to the lobby is filled with artwork and relaxed seating. Common areas, banquet spaces and the hotel rooms and suites have been completely transformed as well.

Toro Toro, which opened with Las Vegas style fan-fare in November 2019, upped The Worthington’s dining cred in a major way.

This is Richard Sandoval’s first Texas location of his international Pan-Latin steakhouse. Sharable skewers and steaks are prepared on the restaurant’s custom designed open grill. And in case you haven’t heard, special sipping tequilas are the new choice of true connoisseurs. Toro Toro has its own tequila tasting room, lined with wooden cubbies, filled with special sipping tequilas. There are even private tequila lockers for guests to store their own stash.

Toro Toro introduced its new chef de cuisine Rafael Villalpando last spring and the hotel quietly opened its new coffee bar Corrida Coffee in October 2020. Corrida replaced the former BarWired Internet Cafe.

Bob Jameson, the co-host of this renovation celebration, knows the hotel well. He served as its general manager from 1985 to 2013, prior to taking over as head of Visit Fort Worth.

The Van Cliburn Suite decorated for The Worthington Hotel’s 40th anniversary celebration. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
During a tour of the Van Cliburn Suite, Jameson told PaperCity Fort Worth that Van Cliburn himself never actually stayed in the suite that is named after him. The famed pianist preferred a suite on the ninth floor instead. This is where Van Cliburn stayed for an extended period after returning home to Fort Worth from New York.

“During the Cliburn Piano Competition, it was always a very special time for us to feel like The Worthington had some ownership of it, hosting parties and housing the international judges,” Jameson recalls.

“This was always something we wanted to do,” Jameson says of the massive renovations DiamondRock has given The Worthington.

“There was a time when that style of hotel lobby was what people wanted,” Jameson continues. “I’m glad they were able to activate the lobby like they have. After all these years, I’m glad the hotel is in the hands of people that know what to do with it.”

Forty years later, The Worthington is still a notable player on the Fort Worth scene.


Location Mentioned: Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel