In a surprise move, the owner of Ft. Worth’s prestigious 474,000-sf Bank One Tower has halted rehabilitation work from a March 28 tornado, terminated leases for three tenants and put the city’s fifth tallest building up for sale.

Loutex Fort Worth, a limited partnership, says “it is not prepared to rebuild” after spending millions of dollars in emergency repairs to the class A office building, including boarding up 3,200 of 3,400 glass windows shattered by a spring tornado. Ft. Worth officials previously assessed tornado damages citywide at $500 million, primarily to Central Business District structures.

“This very difficult decision was made … only after extensive analysis of the substantial hurdles to the re-opening of the tower,” Ron Cherry, Loutex Fort Worth’s managing partner, said in a press release issued yesterday. The major problem environmentally is the formation of molds within the walls and air conditioning system while the delivery lead-time for critical materials is too long. These factors prevent Loutex from expeditiously providing office space to its tenants, says Cherry.

To date, only three of 65 tenants have reoccupied their spaces in the 93% leased, 37-story tower at 500 Throckmorton: Bank One, a deli and a cowboy cuisine restaurant. The businesses have been given 30 days to vacate. To stave Loutex’s eviction, owners of the Reata Restaurant on the 35th floor are suing Loutex and building manager Trammell Crow because they just spent more than $1 million to repair the eatery.

Repair estimates exceed $30 million. An insurance settlement reportedly doled out yesterday simply isn’t hefty enough to cover rebuilding costs, according to news reports. The entire property, which includes an adjacent structure structure and garage,is appraised at $35 million and it will take more than that to fix the tower, says Cherry.

Loutex has started interviewing commercial real estate professionals to search for a buyer. Loutex did not rule out razing the structure if a buyer can’t be found. It is uncertain if the 130,521-sf adjacent building and a six-floor garage with 900 parking spots will be put up for sale along with the tower.

The glass octagon tower, which opened in 1974, was designed by Atlanta architect John Portman for the Fort Worth National Bank.

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