Sundance Square's top executive ended speculation Wednesday that another restaurant will go into the space formerly occupied by Billy Miner's Saloon at the northeast corner of Third and Houston streets.
Despite more than 50 inquiries from food-related businesses, Sundance Square's owners want to lease the space to an apparel retailer, Johnny Campbell, Sundance's president and CEO, told a gathering of commercial real estate professionals.
Billy Miner's, a popular hamburger eatery, closed in September after 27 years in business. Campbell said Sundance is being "very deliberate and very careful" in making a tenant choice. He didn't say when that might happen.
"We decided we would press on that and see if we couldn't make that change," he said.
Apparel retailers Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Pappagallo, Leddy's Ranch, and Earth Bones have already set up shop in Sundance Square, downtown Fort Worth's shopping, entertainment, restaurant, residential and office district.
Campbell joined three other real estate executives in a panel discussion on the state of Fort Worth's real estate market. The event, held at the Hilton hotel downtown, was sponsored by Bisnow.com, an online real estate news source.
The panelists talked about the peak of the downtown office market and the effect the recession has had on leasing and sales. Real estate brokerages say the downtown vacancy rate is about 10 percent. At its peak in mid-2000, vacancy was less than 3 percent and rents were rising. That all changed in 2009, as the national recession deepened and companies began downsizing. The result was a glut of sublease office space, which lately has been attracting oil and natural gas exploration and production companies.
That brought up a brief discussion about what would happen to downtown Fort Worth if Exxon Mobil moved XTO Energy to the Houston area, where the company is said to be considering a new corporate campus.
Exxon Mobil acquired Fort Worth-based XTO in June. XTO owns and occupies a half-dozen downtown office buildings, totaling more than 700,000 square feet of space.
But John Zogg, managing director of Crescent Real Estate Equities, which owns Carter Burgess Plaza, said he didn't think Exxon Mobil would move XTO, in part because of the large talent pool of workers in the natural gas industry.
"If Fort Worth isn't the capital of the [natural] gas industry, it's pretty close," Zogg said.
Another vote of confidence for the downtown office market came from Jim Eagle of Red Oak Realty, who said he expects job growth to help boost demand.
Campbell said Sundance Square is waiting for the right time to start long-planned projects.
"We're all sitting here praying we've seen the bottom," Campbell said.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727