Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

Historic downtown Fort Worth hotel is getting a new owner

The Courtyard Fort Worth/Blackstone hotel in downtown Fort Worth is being sold to an Austin-based real estate investment company.

Summit Hotel Properties has reached an agreement to acquire the 203-room hotel, at 601 Main St., as part of a five-hotel package from Xenia Hotels & Resorts for $163 million, the companies announced.

The historic Blackstone, which dates to 1929, was given new life in 1999 when an affiliate of Historic Renovation of New Orleans completed a two-year, $20 million renovation. The hotel had closed in 1982.

Other hotels included in the sale to Summit are the Courtyard Kansas City Country Club Plaza, the Courtyard Pittsburgh Downtown, the Hampton Inn & Suites Baltimore Inner Harbor, and the Residence Inn Baltimore Downtown/Inner Harbor.

“All five of these hotels are located in prime locations in strong markets and exhibit many of the upside characteristics that are important to our investment criteria,” said Daniel P. Hansen, Summit’s chairman, president and CEO, in a statement.

According to a statement from Xenia, Summit will execute a new franchise agreement for the properties and expects to spend about $13 million to $16 million in capital improvements required under the agreements over the next two years. A spokesman wtih Summit said he couldn’t provide any further details.

Austin-based Summit Hotel Properties is a publicly-traded real estate investment trust that owns 76 hotels in 22 states. It has six other properties in Tarrant County: a Fairfield Inn & Suites and Hampton Inn & Suites in west Fort Worth; a Hilton Garden Inn in Fossil Creek in north Fort Worth; and a Courtyard, Residence Inn and Hyatt Place in Arlington.

A place of his own

After spending six years helping entrepreneurs launch their dream businesses in downtown Arlington, Tony Rutigliano says he’s ready to put his money where his mouth is by starting his own.

He’s planning to open Urban Alchemy Coffee + Wine Bar in Lester’s Automotive Repair shop at 403 E. Main St. by early September. To do so, he’s quitting his job as president and CEO of Downtown Arlington Management Corp., a nonprofit that promotes development in the city’s historic center.

“I got to see folks come in my door with an idea, and I was able to experience along with them that journey they took,” he said. “Working alongside these folks gave me the belief and confidence that I could be an entrepreneur, too.”

His vision is to convert the dank, 2,200-square-foot metal building into a comfortable gathering place for serving his own customized coffee blend and 40 wine varieties, sandwiches, cheese plates, pastries and live music.

His partner in the venture is his wife of five years, Nicole, who plans to keep her day job as a civil engineer while the project gets off the ground. She’s not without some concerns.

“Oh, yes — we have three children, a house and two cars, and that’s more than half our income right there,” she said, referring to her husband’s DAMC paycheck. “I said, ‘OK.’ When he gets really passionate and worked up about something, you just have to support him. He’s worked so hard and he’s so excited.”

Rutigliano designed his own coffee blend at a Grand Prairie roaster and hired a wine consultant to assemble an attractive, smart wine list. And the place will have lots of comfy chairs, a space for special events like wine tastings and a nook for singer-songwriter acts.

“I would like this to be Arlington’s living room,” Rutigliano said. “It’s not your house, and not your work. It’s that other place you go.”

Robert Cadwallader

Tarrant County appraisals up, up and away

The competitive real estate market and overall growth in Tarrant County spurred property values to experience a double-digit increase for the second year in a row and — not surprisingly — spurred property owners to file a large number of protests, according to the Tarrant Appraisal District.

The overall market value of property in 2017 jumped 10.6 percent to $219.4 billion from $198.3 billion, following a 14 percent jump in 2016, chief appraiser Jeff Law said.

Even after applying a mandatory 10 percent cap, the appraised value of property still went up 11.4 percent to $189.8 billion and, when digging even deeper into the numbers, the net taxable value jumped a whopping 13.4 percent to $176.3 billion, according to a district report.

Earlier this year, Law estimated taxable values would jump 5 to 8 percent. But after more complete data came in, particularly on commercial properties, Law said he knew his estimate was wrong.

“I was being overly cautious because I didn’t want to overstate the number … ,” Law said. “The residential market has been very strong and now that we have all the commercial data in, we’re saying about 13 percent” increase on taxable value.

Reports from the industry support Law’s views on the hot real estate market.

The Texas A&M Real Estate Center’s April report shows that the median price for a home in Tarrant County was up 14 percent from last year, to about $217,000. The same report said that the available housing inventory was at less than two months. A 5- to 7-month housing stock is considered healthy.

Having said all that, it’s not a shock that a lot of folks filed protests “when we see value increases like this,” Law said.

By the May 31 deadline, 89,354 protests had been filed, a number that could reach the mid-90,000s when all of the appeals have been entered into the computer system, he said.

The good news is that, unlike previous years when computer snafus contributed to big backlogs, about 45,000 cases have already been resolved.

“That’s a pretty good clearing rate,” Law said. “We are much farther along [this year] in getting protests and getting them resolved.”

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko