An expanded Omni Fort Worth hotel is only one component of a rebounding convention and tourism business for the city.
The major expansion of the Omni Fort Worth Hotel was first broached before the pandemic, which put the project on hold. The second is a major update to the Fort Worth Convention Center with the first phase of that project beginning next year.
For Bob Jameson, president of Visit Fort Worth, these projects need to be done as soon as possible.
“We’re burning money because we are not able to accommodate” demand, he said in a report to the Fort Worth City Council on Aug. 16. Visitor spending in Fort Worth exceeds $2.6 billion annually, according to Visit Fort Worth. In fiscal year-to-date 2022, room nights booked are up 35%, and the estimated economic impact of booked events is up 27% over the same time period in 2019.
Studies in 2014 and 2019 showed that Fort Worth could double its convention business with an expansion of the convention center, according to Mike Crum, director of Fort Worth’s public events department. .
More hotels and more travelers means more visitors who may never have been to Fort Worth before, said Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc. That can bring the city new business long after the visitor or convention leaves.
“Very often, these are business travelers who make location decisions, and who eventually make personal vacation decisions and relocation decisions,” he said.
The price tag for the Omni project has changed since initially being considered in March 2020. The original price for the Omni project was expected to be $174 million, but it is now estimated at $217 million. The Omni Fort Worth expansion would see a second smaller tower at Lancaster Avenue and Houston Street, adding 400 rooms and a minimum 50,000 square feet of convention space.
The 34-story, 604-room Omni Fort Worth opened in 2006.
That site is currently the location of the Tarrant County College’s Mae Owens administrative building. Omni is under contract with the Tarrant County College District to purchase the building.
As part of the Omni expansion, the hotel would include a minimum 15,000-square-foot restaurant facing Lancaster Avenue.
According to the presentation to the City Council, the hotel chain must spend a minimum of $202.3 million on the expansion with 115% of hard and soft costs to minority and women-owned contractors. The city of Fort Worth would contribute a $53 million grant to the project at the completion of the project, which is required by the end of 2026.
The Omni also plans to acquire a TCC parking lot across Throckmorton Street from the planned tower. The lot would become a 200-space parking garage, estimated to cost $6 million. According to the plans presented to the council, the city will own the garage, but the hotel will lease it and operate it. The hotel will have the option to purchase the garage in 10 years.
The council is also looking at beginning the first phase of an update to the Fort Worth Convention Center. The first phase, estimated at $67 million, will see construction of new food and beverage facilities, a demo of the annex and a realignment of Commerce Street, which curves around the convention center currently. Phase 1 is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.
Tarrant County Convention Center, photograph, Date Unknown; courtesy University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Cattle Raisers Museum.
The second phase, estimated at $500 million, would see the arena portion of the convention center – the so-called “flying saucer” – being demolished and a new northern extension as well as extensive building changes. Another 1,000-room hotel could be part of that project.
The expansion of those downtown hotels and the convention center are even more important as the Texas A&M project begins in the same area of downtown. Texas A&M University is planning two buildings and an expansion of the law school on the southern edge of downtown.
“That is going to create even more need for those hotels in that area,” said Taft.
Hotels planned and under construction in downtown Fort Worth
Sandman Signature Fort Worth (under construction) – 245 rooms
Avid Fort Worth East (under construction) – 104 rooms
Le Meridien Fort Worth Downtown (under construction) – 189 rooms
Omni expansion (planning stage) – 400 rooms
New Fort Worth Convention Center hotel (planning stage) – 1,000 rooms
Source: City of Fort Worth, Downtown Fort Worth Inc.