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FW Has Grand Plans for Big Hotel

FORT WORTH Fort Worth city officials are eager to move forward with plans for a big new downtown hotel.

But finding a hotel developer -- as well as the $80 million needed for construction -- may prove to be a challenge.

Shirlee Gandy will open a small luxury hotel on Main Street in April. "The name of our project is the Ashton Hotel," she said. "It's 39 rooms and about 8,000 square feet of meeting room space."

The Ashton will cater to business and leisure travelers -- the first to open of what could be three new hotels.

Occupancy should go up dramatically when the Convention Center expansion is complete in two years. Tourism experts say the city will need 400 to 800 extra rooms.

"We are not competing in the convention market because we don't have the hotel space we need," said City Council member Wendy Davis.

City officials are looking for a partner to develop a 400-room hotel on three parking lots west of the Convention Center. The city could build the $80 million hotel and then lease it or share ownership.

Some city leaders are pushing for the city's involvement in a second hotel -- the old T&P building on Lancaster. It is a quick walk from there to the Convention Center.

"It may be the case that we're able to put money into the hotel for the Convention Center and come up with some other kind of scheme for the T&P," Davis noted.

The city owns the parking lots, so there's no problem with acquiring the land. The challenge will be to find a developer and to finance the project.

City officials said the market is very tight and it will take a good deal to attract a respected name.

Another concern of city officials is not to take on too many big, expensive projects. Fort Worth also hopes to expand the Will Rogers Complex by building a new coliseum.

Karin Kelly