A major expansion of the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, which was sidelined during the pandemic, is back on track with plans for a second smaller tower extending to West Lancaster Avenue and an additional parking garage.
The $217 million project will result in a 400-room expansion over an entire city block, currently the site of a Tarrant Community College administrative building. Omni is under contract with TCC to purchase the property. The city of Fort Worth would contribute $53 million in incentives to the project.
When the work is complete, including a refresh of the existing hotel, the Omni Fort Worth will have 1,008 rooms over two blocks across from the Fort Worth Convention Center along Houston Street. The existing Omni tower is 33 stories and was built in 2009. It is unclear how many stories the new tower will have, but renderings show it would be similar in height to other Lancaster corridor buildings.
The expansion was expected to start moving forward in March 2020, but COVID-19 shut down the country and upended the travel industry. The halt forced a full reconsideration of the project, which at the time had a $174 million price tag.
The revived plans were presented Tuesday to the Fort Worth City Council.
Robert Sturns, director of Fort Worth’s economic development, discussed a partnership between the Omni and the city.
“The fact that Omni is looking forward to bring this project back is just an indicator that the overall health of the market is strong and better,” Sturns said.
The Omni has committed to creating 50,000 square feet of meeting space in the new tower, and 15,000 square feet for a restaurant facing Lancaster Avenue. In exchange, the city would contribute incentives for improvements to the surrounding streetscape.
The luxury hotel chain must spend a minimum of $202.3 million on the expansion with 15% of hard and soft costs to minority and women-owned contractors, according to the city. Completion is required by the end of 2026.
The Omni also committed to transforming a TCC parking lot, across Throckmorton Street from the new hotel tower, into a 200-space parking garage estimated at $6 million. The city will own the garage, but the hotel will lease it and be responsible for constructing, maintaining and operating the structure. After 10 years, the hotel will have the option to purchase.
The city’s one-time $53.3 million grant will be supplied at completion of the project. The bond will be backed by lease revenues from the city.
Redeveloping Lancaster Avenue
The redevelopment of the TCC property, along with a small piece of city-owned land on the same block, for the hotel expansion would be the latest win in efforts to redevelop the Lancaster Avenue corridor.
The city and partners through Tax Increment Financing Districts have previously invested millions of dollars into redevelopment of the Lancaster area. Through tax increment financing, local governments can publicly finance needed structural improvements and enhanced infrastructure, according to the city.
The redevelopment is intended to create a pedestrian-friendly and vibrant mixed-use district along the southern edge of downtown. Lancaster Avenue is flanked by historic buildings like the U.S. Post Office as well as some vacant lots.
The hotel expansion comes at a time when Fort Worth’s hospitality industry continues to surge to pre-pandemic levels, rebounding faster than Dallas by some measures. At least five major upscale hotel projects are in the works in downtown and the Cultural District.
Another 1,000-room hotel is planned for part of the Fort Worth Convention Center expansion. A $67 million first phase is expected to begin by the end of this year.
The first phase involves hotel development and will straighten Commerce Street, according to Mike Crum, director of Fort Worth’s public events department.
The cost of convention center expansion has increased for phase two, which will include demolition of the arena and new construction.
“The cost of the project has gone up significantly,” Crum told the City Council on Tuesday. “Three years ago, it was thought to be south of $400 million. Now it’s north of $500 million.”