FORT WORTH-With its fate long sealed, the 284-key Green Oaks Hotel’s demolition will begin in 30 to 45 days. The landmark hotel’s 12-acre site will be cleared to make way for a three-story, 187,500-sf, LEED-certified spec office project.

Vertical work begins in January on Wilcox Plaza at Green Oaks, with completion between November and first quarter 2009, Bill Cawley, chairman and CEO for Dallas-based GVA Cawley, tells Touted as the hotel where Elvis slept, Cawley affiliate Wilcox Capital Partners acquired the 12-acre asset in August 2002 for $5.5 million, pumping in capital for a renovation to keep income flowing while the site’s future could be worked out.

“I just love Fort Worth. I just think there are a lot of barriers to entry,” Cawley says. Although he owns two office properties in the city, he’s familiar with development roadblocks when it comes to change, particularly spec office. His bid for a Downtown office building met with resistance due in part to its height, with the project going on the backburner and his focus shifting to the hotel site at Green Oaks Boulevard and Interstate 30. The redevelopment hasn’t been a secret, but Cawley’s been on the quiet side about the strategy underwriting the new project.

“I’m going to go there, build a quality project and let the market decide what to do with it,” Cawley says of his break through to Fort Worth’s development circle and using spec to do it. He says he’s also planning to break with tradition after the work is done on the three-story building, which gets 8.78 acres of the tract so there’s room for more right next door. “In the past, we build and sell, but I love Fort Worth. This is a building we’ll probably hold for the long term,” he confides.

The all-in development tab isn’t available, but the low end of today’s construction costs for office product would push it over the $28-million mark. The East Wing’s first level is a 27,500-sf floor plate and the two upper floors are 28,700 sf. On the West Wing, floor plates are 33,600 sf and 34,500 sf. Bank of America provided construction financing.

John Grace of GVA Cawley is preleasing Wilcox Plaza at Green Oaks. Its rate is $24.50 per sf plus electric in a market that Cawley says is getting $17 per sf on average. “Owners there are not driving rents,” he points out, adding he contributed nearly $8 million of equity to the project. “I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it would work.”

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