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FT. WORTH-Two developers in Atlanta and one each in Dallas and Austin are under consideration for the lead role for a 400-room Ft. Worth convention center hotel. Proceed as planned despite the precarious times of the hospitality industry, advises a Colliers International hotel division vice president.

Officials remain tight-lipped about the four vying for the project, but GlobeSt.com has learned they are Garfield Corp. of Dallas, Landmark Organization of Austin and Atlanta-based competitors Stormont Hospitality Group and Portman Development. A city economic development committee hopes to have a recommendation to council in September, which will include the feasibility of a second hotel at the Texas & Pacific Railroad Station along Lancaster Avenue.

Officials will be weighing their decision carefully since they, like their metropolis counterparts, are all at various stages of convention center expansions and public-private partnerships with hotel developers. The Ft. Worth decision to proceed comes when Texas’ pent-up supply far outweighs demand in the hospitality industry, Mark McDermott, vice president of Colliers International’s hotel division in Dallas, tells GlobeSt.com. The saving grace, he adds, is that by the time Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin deliver their convention projects in 2002 and 2003 the hospitality industry most likely will have recovered from a serious downturn.

Can North Texas’ premier rival cities support the expanded convention centers and supplemental hotels plus compete with the 1,500-room Opryland’s 400,000-sf of meeting and exhibit space? “That’s the $64,000 question,” says McDermott. One thing is sure: it can’t hurt to have a larger convention center, he adds.

McDermott hints the Ft. Worth hotel project is practically a must if the city is to effectively compete with its peers. It has the least amount of rooms in the lineup. “There are certain cities because of size of convention facilities, local attractions and the availability of hotel rooms that are more attractive than others,” he notes of the multiple efforts to tap convention circuit high-rollers.

Dallas, on the other hand, as a destination point, faces stiff competition for bookings against the Hyatt Regency, Adam’s Mark and Wyndham Anatole, all boasting significant amounts of meeting space.

It’s just a coincidence that Dallas, Ft. Worth and all major metropolises to the south are simultaneously working on convention center projects, McDermott says. It was 1999 when most started drafting convention center expansions and complementary hotels. The lag time in developing public-private partnerships has now created a Catch-22. It’s full steam ahead in the hope that the climate will be changed dramatically by the 2002 and 2003 deliveries. “I believe the demand will be there eventually, but it might be two, four or six years,” he says.

This year’s soured transactions market in comparison to the prior two years is further evidence that timing truly is everything. At the present, hospitality industry investors are just window shopping. McDermott says the Dallas office fields a lot of inquiries from would-be buyers, but only four sales in Texas took place by midyear. Of those, only two were in excess of $10 million–Houston and Austin properties. That’s down from eight major sales in 1999 and seven in 2000 statewide, according to Colliers Oxford research. Investors, at the present, are “generally pulling their reins in on the acquisition and development side,” he says.

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