A big bubble burst in downtown Fort Worth this week.
It was inflated with hope that the ugly old arena at the Fort Worth Convention Center would soon be gone, a more modern meeting facility would take its place and a second big convention hotel was about to be built next to it.
Now we know it won’t happen soon. It won’t even get started for almost a decade, at the earliest. That’s disappointing.
The fault is probably our own. We’re the ones who filled the bubble with hope.
Still, it’s not like we pulled hope out of thin air. City Manager David Cooke described the background in a memo to the City Council this week — the memo that burst our hopeful bubble.
Two years ago, consultant Hunden Strategic Partners conducted a marketing and feasibility analysis of Fort Worth’s downtown hospitality infrastructure.
It included a study of market demand for convention hotels and the so-called Phase III expansion of the convention center — all of which was proposed in another study back in 1997.
Phase I and Phase II of the expansion were completed in 2002, so we’ve been waiting a long time for Phase III.
Hunden presented its findings to the City Council on July 14, 2014, including an attractive recommendation that a new hotel with 1,000 rooms should be added next to the convention center.
Hunden recommended that the work be done by 2020.
This week’s memo from Cooke set us straight. Two developers who were interested in building that hotel have done their own assessments and have decided to back away.
They wanted to know the timeline for the Phase III work on the convention center, the timing and plans for a realignment of Commerce Street that’s supposed to clear up land for the hotel, and what financial incentives the city is willing to offer.
The city gave $50 million in incentives for the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, which opened in 2009 on the west side of the convention center.
Cooke told the council the city can’t answer those questions right now because its money is tied up elsewhere — in Cooke’s words, “due to commitments on other projects, specifically the new Arena at the Will Rogers Memorial Center.”
The city will pay $225 million for that arena. It’s a bargain because private donors will pay an equal amount. But it means the city can’t afford to take on the convention center or hotel projects until “approximately 2025,” Cooke wrote.
Poof! Our bubble full of hope is gone.