Hotel Dryce blends the city’s past and present by repurposing an old dry ice factory into a modern craft hotel in the Cultural District.
Co-owners Jonathan Morris and Allen Mederos found the perfect building for their vision at 3621 Byers Ave., down the street from Dickies Arena and Interstate 30. The old dry ice factory wasn’t an architectural masterpiece, Mederos said, but it had “good bones.”
The hotel, set to open by September, uses the factory’s signage, brick exterior wall, and mimics its original painted zig-zag on both the exterior and in some tiling. In the courtyard is a garden-planter-turned-cauldron, where the hotel will use dry ice to send up a plume of “smoke.’
“It’s exciting from a design standpoint and just makes a better story, adds some character components of reuse and reduction of waste instead of just tearing down,” Mederos said. “It’s more of a thought around improving and rebuilding versus tearing down and building new.”
Repurposing the city’s existing structures can have economic and cultural benefits, said Michael Henning, Fort Worth’s business development coordinator.
Existing structures can free up more funds to use to “bring out the property’s personality,” he said. But properties not set up to be a hotel could require developers to be more creative financially and in terms of the building’s design, he said.
Renovating properties like the dry ice factory help preserve the district’s “architectural fabric” and set a precedent for how other properties throughout the city could be used from similar projects, Henning said.
“One exciting thing about Fort Worth and around the Cultural District is you’ve got a lot of adaptive reuse of existing properties and then new construction happening right alongside it,” Henning said. “You have two hotels coming up in the district: a new beautiful 200-room four-star plus hotel (the Crescent mixed-use office and hotel) and then adaptive reuse for a funkier style hotel.”
Recent hotel openings
Crescent Court Hotel, mid-2023, 200 rooms, 400 Crescent Court
Hotel Dryce, September 2021, 21 rooms, 3621 Byers Ave.
Kimpton Harper, June 2021, 226 rooms, 714 Main St.
Avid Fort Worth-Fossil Creek, May 2021, 87 rooms, 6225 Sandshell Drive
The Drover, March 2021, 200 rooms, 200 Mule Alley
Hyatt Place, February 2021, 150 rooms, 3029 Sandage Ave.
AC Hotel by Marriott, September 2020, 253 rooms, 101 W 5th St.
Residence Inn-Fort Worth Southwest/Waterside, April 2021, 116 rooms, 5825 Arborlawn Drive
Springhill Suites-DFW Airport South, June 2021, 131 rooms, 4360 Texas Highway 360
Home2 Suites by Hilton, June 2021, 114 rooms, 1145 University Drive
Homewood Suites-DFW South, May 2021, 130 rooms, 4600 Texas Highway 360
Henning said it’s nice the city can grow in both ways, and the preference just depends on the type of traveler. In Morris’ vision, the hotel is designed for travelers looking to get immersed in the city’s culture.
Downtown Fort Worth Inc. President Andy Taft gave the Sinclair Hotel, the Kimpton Harper and Texas & Pacific Lofts as other examples of repurposed buildings in the area. The Sinclair was built in the early 20th century as an homage to the Roaring 20s art deco style. It was restored in 2015 and opened as a hotel in 2019. The Kimpton Harper was built in 1921 as the headquarters for Farmer’s and Mechanics Bank. It opened as a hotel this year.
He said repurposing versus building new both have their merits, he said.
“People form an attachment with the built environment and maintaining a building, even if it’s remodeled, is a testimony to the neighborhood,” Taft said. “It gives a new life but maintains a sense of continuity of neighborhood.”
As a craft boutique hotel, Dryce offers 21 rooms of various sizes. Morris and Mederos were inspired to create a craft hotel after Mederos visited a boutique hotel in Florida and enjoyed the niche experience it offered.
We “convinced ourselves Fort Worth needed something a little bit different in terms of hotel space,” Morris said. “We came at it from the standpoint of being an independent hotel, made by locals and a representation of what Fort Worth is to us.”
It was important to the pair to honor the city’s past but “lean into the juxtaposition” of modernity to represent how the city is growing and changing, Morris said.
“Fort Worth is a city that’s very proud of its past and really leaned into nostalgia,” Morris said. “The thing I really love about Fort Worth is the direction it’s going. So (we) nod to the past but think about the future.”
During the rezoning, many nearby residents voiced their disapproval of the hotel, Mederos said. But the City Council unanimously approved the rezoning in 2019.
“When we bought it, it was zoned for medium industrial, and we tried to tell them without the zoning change, we could have put up a gun range, a chicken farm, a bar,” Mederos said. “We think we’re creating something that intersects the neighborhood and what’s going on at Dickies and the Cultural District in a positive way.”
The hotel isn’t just meant for guests, Morris said. He wants the outdoor courtyard and lobby bar to be a gathering place for locals as well.
“The idea is to attract the local community with a place that they’re proud of and they feel is home,” Morris said. “This can be a place where people from all over meet with people based right here in Fort Worth. If we make this beacon for Fort Worthians, some really special interactions can happen.”
To give the hotel a local feel, it’s adorned with art from local artists, vintage furniture and handmaid dressings like the curtains repurposed from Oaxacan Mexican blankets. Hotel Dryce had the “You Are Here” art grant to give underrepresented artists of color an opportunity to showcase their perspectives of the city.
Brenda Ciardiello is a Mexican-American artist and poet whose art explores personal connection to nature. Her multicultural and multiracial family inspires her work.
“My work explores this idea of brown and Black people existing in nature in this natural, effortless way,” she said. “Art often represents brown people as exotic so I was hoping to bring this contemporary feel of a modern kid existing in nature who also happens to be black in this Fort Worth Botanic Gardens scene.”
Along with local art to immerse guests in Fort Worth, hotel employees are equipped to provide guests with all the Fort Worth must-have experiences.
“There’s a traveler I believe is coming in Fort Worth that hasn’t found their space,” Morris said. “I want to create that space for that traveler(…) We’re training staff to be engaged in the community themselves so they can point people in the right direction. There’s nobody better than a local who loves where they live to introduce their city to travelers.”
In a lot of ways, Hotel Dryce is his love letter to Fort Worth, Morris said.
“We can serve as a helper, as ambassadors to the city to really connect people in an authentic, real way,” Morris said. “We want people to fall in love with Fort Worth the way it happened for a lot of us here.”
Editor’s note: This story was changed to reflect that Allen Mederos is the co-owner of Hotel Dryce. His name was incorrectly reported in one instance of this story.
Jonathan Morris is on the board of the directors for the Fort Worth Report. 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.
Brooke Colombo is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by grants from the Amon G. Carter and Sid W. Richardson foundations.