Developers Plan 60-Story Office/Condo Tower in Downtown Fort Worth

Dec. 14--FORT WORTH -- Area developers are considering a spiraling 60-story, $200 million office and condo tower on the east side of downtown that, if built, would become the city's tallest building -- and the first skyscraper built here in more than 20 years.

Fort Worth architect Ken Schaumburg and Dallas developer William "Bill" Cawley, chairman and chief executive of Cawley Wilcox Cos., have teamed for the ambitious project, one that could spur redevelopment in an area of downtown that has been bypassed by most recent redevelopment efforts.

The project, planned for the southeast corner of Calhoun and Sixth streets, would likely offer some of the highest-priced condominiums in the downtown residential market and create a residential center near the city's public-transportation hub.

Cawley said the project would include 200,000 square feet of office space, 300 condos and 10 floors of parking. It is in early design and budgeting stages, and not all of the financing has been obtained, he said. He said his company and other investors will back the project financially.

"I don't expect that to be a problem," Cawley said. "Fort Worth is a great office market, and it's a great city. It's one of the most stable markets in the U.S."

Schaumburg and representatives with Wilcox Development Services, the development arm of the Cawley Wilcox Cos., met with city officials Monday in a pre-development planning session for the 900-foot-tall building, planned for the city block bounded by Seventh, Eighth, Calhoun and Jones streets.

There is no name yet for the project, but it is being referred to as the Block TU project in city filings.

"It looks like everything is good to go," Schaumburg said.

The condos are expected to sell for at least $350 a square foot, meaning the largest condos, at 5,000 square feet, would go for $1.75 million, Schaumburg said.

As it's now planned, the building's floors each would be 20,000 square feet. The street level would have retail space, followed by 10 floors for parking for 1,100 cars. There would be separate parking entrances for office tenants and residents.

Above the parking floors would be a transitional floor of open space, followed by 10 floors of offices, according to the preliminary plans. Above the office floors would be a floor for the building's mechanical equipment and then a sky lobby, which would house recreational space for the condos, including a swimming pool. Above that would be 37 floors of condos.

Schaumburg said he would like to see a public restaurant on the top floor.

The condos will range from about 800 square feet to 5,000 square feet, with most 1,500 to 2,000 square feet, Schaumburg said. Costs will begin at $350 a square foot, which will set the top end of the market downtown. Marketing efforts for pre-sales will likely begin in late February, he said.

If completed, the building will surpass the city's tallest building, Burnett Plaza, 801 Cherry St., which is 40 stories and 567 feet high. The second-tallest building is D.R. Horton Tower, 301 Commerce St., at 547 feet high and 38 stories. Carter+Burgess Plaza, at Seventh and Main streets, is also 40 stories, but 525 feet.

The east end of downtown is home to a few warehouses and several empty lots that are used for parking. It is also home to the Intermodal Transportation Center, the city's bus and train terminal, opened at Ninth and Jones streets in 2002.

City leaders say the project would be a huge boost to downtown because most of the recent development has been focused on the northern, southern and western edges of the central business district.

"We've long seen the potential of that area to benefit from the growth of downtown," said Fernando Costa, the city's economic-development director.

The site is just a few blocks from Bass Performance Hall and within a few of blocks of the heart of the city's office and commercial district, the workplace for about 40,000 people.

Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., a nonprofit booster group, said the project will tap into two markets in great demand -- office and residential. He's hoping that the development could spur similar projects.

"The office space is very tight in downtown, and the combination of office and residential in that location is an intriguing idea," Taft said. "There is a lot of land in that corridor for redevelopment opportunities."

Mayor Mike Moncrief said the proposed building would certainly change the city's skyline.

"I know there's demand for square footage downtown, offices large and small alike," Moncrief said.

The vacancy rate for Class A office space in downtown Fort Worth has remained at historic lows for the past couple of years, and if forecasts are correct, it's going to keep getting tighter.

Grubb & Ellis says that the largest tenant demands will occur in the Class A office market, the most modern buildings with the latest amenities. Corporate relocations and consolidations are creating the greatest demand for space, Grubb & Ellis says in its market assessment.

Other projects are also in the works for downtown Fort Worth.

Klabzuba Oil and Gas Co. in Fort Worth plans a 10-story Class A office building near the southwest corner of Weatherford and Lexington streets, on the western edge of downtown. The company said the 200,000-square-foot building could be under construction in mid-2006.

Schaumburg said Cawley approached him earlier this year about a possible project.

The land was acquired by Schaumburg in April from TXU Electric Delivery, which had used it for fleet parking. At the time, Schaumburg said he anticipated using the city block to expand his nearby Le Bijou luxury town-house development, which will be under construction in the coming weeks.

"I had planned on a condo project, but this makes it pretty exciting to combine both," Schaumburg said.

The Cawley Wilcox Cos. are not unfamiliar with Fort Worth. Wilcox Capital in July bought the three-building Overton Centre office complex in southwest Fort Worth. In 2002, it bought the Green Oaks Hotel, a west Fort Worth landmark, and in 2003 it bought the Ridglea Bank Building off Camp Bowie Boulevard.

Most recently, Wilcox Development built the JPMorgan International Building, a 1.1 million-square-foot building in Dallas, the 420,000-square-foot Sybase corporate headquarters in Dublin, Calif., and the 250,000-square-foot Blue Shield of California building in Sacramento.

Schaumburg will serve as design architect on the Fort Worth project , but Omniplan in Dallas will be the architect of record.

The Fort Worth building would be as tall as two 60-story buildings in downtown Dallas -- the Bank One Center at 1717 Main St. and Fountain Place, 1445 Ross Ave. The tallest building in the Metroplex is the 72-story Bank of America Plaza, 901 Main St., in downtown Dallas, according to the Web site

Schaumburg is behind several high-dollar condominium projects in Fort Worth, including The Versailles, at Henderson and Peach streets, and Bluff Street, at 959 Bluff St. He has also talked about a $48 million, 23-story condo tower on the western edge of downtown that would overlook the Trinity River at Peach and North Lexington streets.

(Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth) (KRT) -- 12/15/05)

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