Fort Worth

Remember the debacle over a hotel by the Kimbell Museum? A new hotel is in the works

The Kimbell Museum has been concerned that development on West 7th might interfere with views from the museum, including its courtyard.
The Kimbell Museum has been concerned that development on West 7th might interfere with views from the museum, including its courtyard. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

A hotel developer is resurrecting plans for a boutique hotel near the Kimbell Art Museum, this time with the help of a Fort Worth architect.

Little has been made public about plans for the hotel at Camp Bowie Boulevard and Van Cliburn Way in the Cultural District. But Michael Bennett, principal and CEO of Fort Worth’s Bennett Benner Partners, said his firm has been mindful of the Cultural District’s unique aesthetic and the vision of Kimbell architect Louis Kahn in a design they’re working on for an unnamed developer. The architect this week will ask the city’s urban design commission to allow a series of variances in the design code to make way for the project.

“With the Kimbell, you have arguably one of the best buildings in the United States as far as architecture,” he said. “It is very important we fit with it and not diminish the wonderful cultural resource we have here.”

Previous attempts to build on the site on the northwest side of Camp Bowie and Van Cliburn have failed.

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 to 10 stories, the city denied tax incentives for the project.

Bennett said the concern had been that the hotel would ruin views from the Kimbell.

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 debacle with Hotel Renovo, a height limit of 60 feet was applied to any future construction. Bennett said his firm is asking for “a few feet more” to help fit the building on the site. He is confident, however, it won’t obstruct views from inside the Kimbell.

“These are slight tweaks,” he said.

Bennett Benner Partners is also asking for variances that allow porte-cochère, those hotel dropoff areas, on Van Cliburn and Camp Bowie.

Bennett is working with a national hotel developer that specializes in small hotels, but said he couldn’t name the developer publicly until the variances are approved. Design is in the early stages, but the hotel will likely feature about 170 rooms, meeting space and a restaurant and bar.

Mayor Pro Tem Dennis Shingleton, whose District 7 includes the Cultural District, said he is “very confident” in the new proposal, saying it is “nothing like” the previous attempt. He said he has been involved in discussions about the hotel for about six months

Shingleton didn’t have specifics on the project, but he said it would be a 5-star rated “very artsy” boutique hotel with a gallery.

“It’s going to marry well with the Cultural District,” he said.

Among the hotel developers who fit this description — small hotels with an “artsy vibe” — is 21c Museum Hotel. The Louisville, Ky.-based company combines hotels and art galleries often with high-end dining. 21c has hotels in Kansas City, Mo., Cincinnati, Nashville and Oklahoma City, among other cities.

“We would love to be in Fort Worth, but we don’t have any projects ready to announce at this time,” 21c spokeswoman Jen Petrisko said in an email.

Kimbell Art Museum director Eric Lee said in an email that ensuring the hotel isn’t visible from inside the museum is key. He and Bennett have discussed concepts and he is comfortable with the plan, he said.

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 from 2020 to 2022.

Shingleton said he has been assured the hotel will open in time to serve Dickies.

“Dirt should be flying early next year,” he said.

Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami's works cover the Cafe Modern walls during the summer 2018 exhibit at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, "The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg."

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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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