Agreements bring Casino Beach closer to revival

Posted Saturday, Mar. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- Arlington real estate lawyer Mike Patterson hopes to have Casino Beach at Lake Worth buzzing with restaurants and music venues in time for the lake's 100th anniversary in the fall of 2014 now that the Fort Worth City Council has approved two key agreements for the project.

The agreements give the city's lawyers the green light to move forward with the $1.8 million sale of 15.7 waterfront acres, owned by Fort Worth's Water Department, to Patterson's Casino Beach Properties, and an agreement authorizing the group to develop and manage pavilions and other structures on park property.

The developers will pay a license fee to the city equal to 10 percent of revenues from the venues, or $2,744 for each acre, whichever is greater. The money will be used for citywide park improvements.

Last June, the council approved an economic-development agreement that will reimburse Patterson's group up to $10 million for public infrastructure work, including water and sewer lines, to the property.

All the agreements require final signatures, including the pending approval of a community facilities agreement, required when construction of public infrastructure is funded entirely or in part by a private developer. That could happen in the next couple of months, allowing site work to begin by the end of the summer, Patterson said. Financing has been set up with Pinnacle Bank.

"In the interim, we will be doing pre-leasing of the restaurants," Patterson said. "What we're wanting to do is ... get four to six restaurants that don't compete with each other, but complement each other. We prefer not to build it and see if they will come. We're not in a hurry to make a mistake."

The developers have a letter of intent from one restaurant, which Patterson declined to name. Talks are ongoing with about a half-dozen others, he said.

Casino Beach was once the site of a popular amusement park and dance hall on the west end of the Jacksboro Highway bridge over Lake Worth. In its heyday in the 1920s and '30s, it attracted big-name performers, including Guy Lombardo and Tommy Dorsey, to its ballroom. It also had a wooden bathhouse, a boardwalk and a roller coaster.

The new development will have about 40,000 square feet for restaurants, an event center and an outdoor pavilion. Patterson said the design will be similar to the turn-of-the-century stone buildings in historic Gruene, located in South Texas near New Braunfels, where a 6,000-square-foot open-air dance hall has become a popular venue for Texas performers. Docks are planned for boating and swimming.

A property management firm will be hired, and Patterson said he's in talks to form a joint venture with a local firm to operate the event venues. He envisions Casino Beach offering a spring/summer concert program similar to concerts at the Dallas Arboretum.

Patterson, 58, became involved in restoring Casino Beach after working on a real estate deal with the Brazos River Authority a couple of years ago. In that deal, the Brazos River Authority wanted to get out of the land management business and decided to sells its leaseholds around Possum Kingdom Lake in a bulk sale.

Patterson led a group of investors who paid the river authority $50 million for the leaseholds, and then resold the property to the owners of the lake homes.

The Arlington native said he thought there might be other government owners of leaseholds that, like the Brazos River Authority, wanted out of land management.

"In the process, we looked in our own back yard, and Lake Worth had some leaseholds," Patterson said.

A deal never materialized, but that's when Patterson stumbled onto the city's vision to see Casino Beach brought back to life. He turned to his investors about the project.

"It's funny how one thing leads to another," he said. "We read it and said, 'Goodness gracious, what a neat venue.' We said, 'We think we can do this.'"

Patterson said he expects to draw most visitors and diners from a 30-minute radius around Fort Worth.

"There's not a lot of opportunity to have a meal lakeside in Fort Worth," Patterson said. "I'm hoping to build something that's a nice deal."

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST

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