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An art museum in a hotel? This developer is looking for a site near the Kimbell

A hotel company that specializes in combining lodging and art wants to bring a 171-room boutique hotel to Fort Worth’s Cultural District.

21c Museum Hotels, a Louisville, Ky.-based company that offers both art galleries and high-end dining in its hotels, will invest about $70 million into a vacant lot at the northwest corner of Camp Bowie and Van Cliburn Way.

Previous attempts to build on the site across the street from the Kimbell Art Museum have failed. The museum has feared a hotel tower would cast a shadow on museum grounds and obstruct views in a north-facing garden. The hope is the art gallery-focused hotel will blend well with nearby museums.

Fort Worth architects Bennett Benner Partners did preliminary design work that Michael Bennett, principal and CEO, said in December was mindful of the Cultural District’s unique aesthetic and the vision of Kimbell architect Louis Kahn

21c boasts of in-house specially curated museums coupled with “chef-driven” restaurants. Hotels are open in Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, Nashville and Kansas City, Mo. The Fort Worth hotel will include 9,000 square feet of meeting space and more than 4,000 square feet of dinning. About 140 will be employed there full-time.

The developer is asking for 80 percent of the city’s hotel tax generated at the new hotel over 12 yeas. The council will vote on the package March 26.

Even with incentives, the project is expected to generate more than $9 million in commercial taxes over 10 years, according to the city.

Illinois-based Heart of America Group tried two concepts on the site, called Hotel Renovo at the time. The first would have cast a shadow on the Kimbell’s sculpture garden. Nearly a year ago, after the design was downsized from 12 to 10 stories, the city denied tax incentives for the project.

Hoping to avoid being overshadowed by hotel development and encroachment from the West 7th corridor, museums in the district, including the Kimbell and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, worked with the city to establish protections for views.

After the problems with Hotel Renovo, a height limit of 60 feet was applied to any future construction.

The hotel is an easy walk to Dickies Arena, slated to open in late 2019. Hotel rooms will be crucial in the area as the arena attracts performance acts such as George Strait and sporting events like the first- and second-round games of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2022.

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.
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