It’s not a brick wall, but a brick road that stands between the North Hi Mount Neighborhood Association and the developer of a new hotel on Camp Bowie Boulevard.
Neighbors want to limit the hotel’s construction to five days a week and to have construction trucks turn around and go down Montgomery Street rather than Camp Bowie. They are concerned the trucks will tear up the street’s distinctive, red bricks.
However, the city of Fort Worth doesn’t require construction to be limited to five days a week, and the developers argue that turning around to go down Montgomery would be unsafe and damage the historic bricks.
“We’re not against development. We just want it done properly,” neighborhood association zoning chair Susan Urshel said. “This is a quality-of-life issue.”
Bryan Botterman, who the hotel developer hired to oversee construction, said residents should be thankful that something similar to Hotel Emma in San Antonio will soon be spurring property enhancements throughout the neighborhood.
“This is essentially a gift to the neighborhood,” said Botterman, of Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis, a real estate services and investment firm.
The hotel will be in the 3700 block of Camp Bowie where a bar called the Ginger Man once stood.
Jo Ellard, the past president of the Fort Worth-based National Cutting Horse Association, started buying the land for the hotel in June of 2019.
In January 2020, Ellard told the neighborhood association that she planned to build an 80-room, three-story boutique hotel there. Later that year, the City Council approved a plan to build a hotel with 120 rooms and four stories and 11 townhomes. (A site plan from May 2020 shows eight townhomes).
The neighborhood association took no position on it then, in part, because members thought the developer had agreed to limit construction to five days a week, Urshel said. Neighbors learned months later that the agreement wasn’t in a binding city document, however, she said.
Urshel and others hoped that when Ellard and her team recently requested to put construction trailers at 3800 Camp Bowie, neighbors would get another chance to hold her to the earlier agreement to limit construction to five days a week. But this month, the developer withdrew the request about where to place its construction trailers.
“We found a more cost-effective way to do it,” Botterman said. Ellard could not be reached for comment.
Botterman did not respond to several follow-up questions, including where construction trailers will be located instead and what route construction trucks will take.
Urshel said she’s heard that as many as 75 construction trucks will be traveling the area per day. She wonders whether they will get to Interstate 30 by going one mile down Camp Bowie and turning left onto Hulen Street, or by going two miles down Camp Bowie until it hits I-30.
What is known is that Ellard has asked the city to close the westbound, outside lane of Camp Bowie from Clarke Avenue to Dorothy Lane for a year.
The closure will affect businesses in the area, including the Margo Dean School of Ballet.
“We’ve had construction in the past that’s hurt our business because it’s made a big mess. I think they’ve made a promise not to make a big mess, so I hope they live up to it,” Webster Dean, the school’s associate director, said.
Camp Bowie is unique because drivers go over bricks rather than asphalt. The city laid vitrified brick from the Thurber Brick Co. there in 1927. This type of brick was also used to build Congress Avenue in Austin and the Galveston sea wall, according to an Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association newsletter from the early 2000s. Vitrified brick is fired at a higher temperature and for a longer period of time, according to Historicpavement.com, making it withstand the elements better.
Newspaper clippings in the decades since show some Fort Worthians becoming distraught whenever someone has floated the idea to replace the bricks with a less costly alternative.
For example, in 1976, more than 300 people showed up to a City Council meeting and applauded when it decided not to use $300 million from the state to repave and widen Camp Bowie.
In 1999, the city got flak for putting brick-shaped concrete in the 5000 block of Camp Bowie.
And so the city has spent a lot on Camp Bowie’s upkeep. It spent $1.6 million on brick maintenance on that two-mile stretch of Camp Bowie between fiscal years 2016 to 2020 alone.
“It’s really not the bricks. It’s the mortar in between the bricks that breaks and becomes brittle,” said Wade Chappell, executive director of Camp Bowie District Inc.
Chappell supports the hotel and said Ellard would be a better hotelier than a national chain because of the value she places on Fort Worth from being part of its equestrian scene. Her offer to make an underground garage for the hotel to reduce street parking is an example of this, he said.
Botterman plans to create a website to share hotel updates with the neighbors, he said. And Urshel is hopeful new District 7 Councilman Leonard Firestone will bring the parties together to negotiate again.
Firestone will meet with the developers this week, he said, and hopes to strike a balance between preserving the unique character of the neighborhood and the business’ needs. But hotels are needed, he added.
“From my work at Visit Fort Worth, being on that board, we need rooms to attract tourism, we need rooms to attract convention business, and that’s really, really important because a very large portion of our sales tax comes from out-of-town visitors, so we need rooms, and that’s going to allow us to be more competitive,” Firestone said.
Jessica Priest is an investigative journalist for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.