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Fort Worth needs to be making hotel plans.

It's time for Fort Worth to kick into high gear in aggressively planning the construction of a high-quality hotel to serve an expanded and upgraded convention center.

City officials also should begin serious discussions with developers regarding what role the city might play in encouraging conversion of the historic Texas & Pacific terminal building on Lancaster Avenue into an attractive railroad-themed hotel.

City officials got the encouragement they needed Tuesday when consultant Charles Johnson advised them that:

* A hotel to serve the convention center is sorely needed to provide more first-rate downtown lodging and help lure more conventions upon the completion of a second phase of the convention center expansion in 2003.

* The proposed T&P hotel development should help, rather than hurt, a convention center hotel by providing another high-quality downtown hotel to accommodate large conventions and special events.

After hearing Johnson's report, city officials are wisely planning to solicit requests from developers regarding construction of a 400-room convention center hotel, which might cost $70 million to $90 million. One potentially attractive site is a city-owned parking lot immediately west of the center.

Local real estate developers Ed Casebier and Tom Blanton have asked the city to assist in a $50 million project to turn the T&P building into a 330-room hotel.

The City Council must decide what role the city might play in both hotel projects. For example, it must determine if the city would find it preferable to own the convention center hotel or have it be privately owned.

Within a decade, the south end of downtown is expected to be dramatically revitalized. Two hotels would help bring that about.


Copyright 2001 Star-Telegram, Inc.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram