The first of seven new hotels planned for downtown Fort Worth opened on Thursday.
With its arrival, Fairfield Inn & Suites brought an additional 114 rooms online. By the time the Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton chains, as well as others, join the party we will have more than 1,000 new rooms downtown.
This influx has the potential to further redefine our iconic downtown. And it comes just in time.
As XTO Energy prepares to relocate the majority of its workforce from downtown Fort Worth to Houston, we’ve got an opportunity to continue the thoughtful approach stakeholders and planners have engaged in with respect to downtown.
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Our wonderful mix of old, which is evident in our building facades and brick streets, and new — Sundance Square’s redevelopment — is unique.
Our vibrant, livable, walkable downtown is unmatched by our neighbors to the east.
This community is committed to ensuring downtown is a centerpiece, as we have seen by the millions in both public and private investment.
The hotels bring the prospect of more people — and more business — to Fort Worth, enabling many to experience all downtown and beyond has to offer.
None of the new hotels brings the cachet or the price tag of luxury hotels — which means we’re creating more of the reasonably priced solutions that visitors and conventioneers need.
And speaking of those conventions: When a significant event comes to Fort Worth, the current stock of accommodations — or about 2,500 rooms — is sold out.
While we would caution against building out beyond demand, more than 700,000 people visited the Fort Worth Convention Center in 2016. The space was in use more than 320 days of the year.
And a refresh should only increase demand.
More concerning is our ability to effectively and affordably move visitors throughout downtown and to show them what lies beyond the center. From the Museum District to the Stockyards, there is opportunity to connect visitors with our cultural touchstones. But using public transportation to reach these places is far from ideal.
Molly the Trolley, the bus that looks like a trolley that was first introduced in 2009, as of August is charging patrons to ride around downtown. The move was met with opposition from some area business leaders. A planned shuttle called Dash will take riders from downtown to the West Seventh area, also at a cost. Both charge $2 for a single ride or $5 for the day.
While the Stockyards are a short distance from downtown, that distance is not walkable and the route is not bike friendly. A city bus is your best bet.
As an oil and gas company that has supported Fort Worth for decades prepares to depart, we are right to think about diversification — in tourism. We’re also seeing it in the government sector, with the county also recently purchasing land near the courthouse.
That seven new hotels are set to open is good news; it speaks to downtown’s bright future.
And transportation — how we get around — must continue to be a priority for city leadership.