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FT. WORTH-A City of Ft. Worth wish list for a convention center hotel could see two instead of one come out of the ground, GlobeSt.com has learned. The owners of the T&P Railroad Station have approached the city about financial backing for a redo of the South Lancaster historic property while four development proposals for city-owned land are due by July 18. At that point, a city team will start weighing the merits of a 400-room hotel in concert with Hall & Conner’s funding request for a 320-room railroad station conversion.

Pat Svacina, Ft. Worth’s public information officer and official spokesman, has confirmed that dual convention center hotels could become a reality. He says Ft. Worth’s contribution, if it materializes, in Hall & Conner’s private venture could come in the way of a tax abatement or tax-free bond sale. Then again, it just might be limited to expert advice and support of the private undertaking.

Chicago-based CH Consulting Inc., hired by the city, says Ft. Worth could support both plans. The consultant will be reviewing the development proposals along with city officials and present a recommendation to council in September.

Greg Crown, vice president of PKF Consulting Inc.’s Dallas office, agrees that Ft. Worth could stand a few more rooms. There currently are 2,052 rooms in six hotels in the city’s CBD. “There’s no question that Ft. Worth is short on hotel rooms to support that convention center,” he tells GlobeSt.com. And, he says, there’s plenty of room for both.

The end goal is to attract larger and more conventions, the same game plan being lobbed in Denver, Austin and Houston. On the average, Ft. Worth hosts 45 conventions per year, says Kirk Slaughter, the city’s public events director. “The integral part of the success is going to be our hotel inventory,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “There are two separate hotel developments moving simultaneously. We will know which way to proceed on both projects in September or October.”

It’s also possible that the city’s handpicked developers will present plans for larger a hotel than the proposed 400-room facility, which is estimated to cost about $80 million. The development site encompasses three city blocks, two of which are earmarked for the hotel and the third set aside for future development.

Slaughter is optimistic that a development deal can be sealed by the end of this year or early 2002. The city is under a critical timeframe because it wants the hotel’s delivery to fall as close as possible to the 2003 opening for the expanded convention center. That $75-million expansion project has its steel up and is ready to enclose. It is a design of Steve Brubaker of HOK Architects’ St. Louis office. Austin Commercial Co. is acting as construction manager for the expansion, which is being built by Dallas-based Walker Construction.

The two-phase convention center project will result in 250,000 sf of exhibit space, 60,000 sf of meeting space and a 30,000-sf ballroom as well as a new concourse and entry that connects to the Philip Johnson-designed Water Garden. Under consideration is a plan for a Ft. Worth Water Garden Event Plaza, an open-air entertainment and dining venue that will connect the convention center to the famed Water Garden. “It will give this whole area a new life,” Slaughter says.

It’s taken a decade to get the project rolling, officials say. And one could not be possible without the other. “If we weren’t expanding the convention center, we wouldn’t be talking hotel,” emphasizes Svacina.

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