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Study says downtown ready for two hotels; plan for T&P building may lure more business

FORT WORTH -- A new city- funded study concludes that the downtown area could support two more high-end hotels -- one near the Fort Worth Convention Center, and the other in the Texas & Pacific Terminal Building at Lancaster and Throckmorton streets.

Fort Worth officials hired Chicago-based C.H. Johnson Consulting Inc. in October to update a 1996 convention center hotel study. The firm was also asked to determine what effect a proposed conversion of the 1931 T&P building into a 330-room, railroad-themed hotel would have on the convention center hotel project.

The hotels originally were thought to be competing efforts, but city officials said they now believe that the two projects could be a catalyst to bring in high-dollar convention business.

"He actually indicated that we would benefit from a T&P hotel," Councilwoman Wendy Davis said Monday. "When you look at other cities, like Dallas, for example, they have a number of hotels that are near the convention center.

"The more rooms you have, the more conventions you can attract."

The consultants' findings could make City Hall more willing to support the T&P project, Davis said.

T&P developers asked the city in September to create a special authority that could help finance their $50 million renovation and hotel construction project with tax-free bonds. The proposal received lukewarm response at City Hall because officials thought the project might take away business from a new convention center hotel.

Consultant Charles Johnson will present the results of his study -- including potential sites for the convention center hotel project -- to the full council today during an afternoon work session at City Hall, 1000 Throckmorton St. No formal action is expected at the meeting.

According to a 2000 study by Source Strategies in San Antonio, downtown Fort Worth has just over 2,300 hotel rooms.

But Fort Worth Public Events Director Kirk Slaughter said he expects the city to pursue the convention center hotel project "very aggressively" because many of the available hotel rooms do not serve convention visitors.

"There is a desire to have a high-end hotel adjacent to that property," said Slaughter, referring to the convention center. "We want to bring high- end business, corporate associations, and they are looking for a luxury hotel with full service."

Council members said Monday that they didn't know how much such a hotel would cost, but said it would probably need some public funding -- possibly from a bond election.

A 1996 Coopers & Lybrand study found that a renovated convention center would support a new, 450-room headquarters hotel. Consultants said the hotel should be first-class, with amenities such as a fine restaurant and a fitness center.

The hotel would complement the ongoing renovation of the aging convention center, which is estimated to cost $72.9 million for the first- and second-phase construction.

Future convention center expansions could add another $100 million or more to the cost, consultants said. Ultimately, convention center expansion would require demolition of the existing arena.

Officials are considering construction of a new, 12,000-seat arena in the Cultural District.

Ginger D. Richardson, (817) 390-7616

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The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
Ginger D. Richardson