Fort Worth has closed the books on the $18 million purchase of the Central Library, setting up a development that could bring a new chapter of change to the area on the west side of downtown.
While plans are still in the preliminary stages, Dart Interests LLC, a Dallas-based firm specializing in real estate investment and development, expects to build a multi-story, mixed-use development on the site with residential, retail and office space. The sale was initially announced in December, but didn’t officially close until May.
The released renderings show two 20-story buildings which would add a new appeal to Fort Worth’s skyline, said David Berzina,vice president of JLL Fort Worth.
“Additionally, this sale not only sets a new benchmark for commercial land sales in downtown Fort Worth but also reflects the immense value and potential of the Fort Worth market,” he said. The price tag for the project is likely to exceed the $200 million city officials were hoping to see for the development, JLL officials said.
The two towers would replace the current 234,000-square-foot building at 500 W. 3rd St. that has housed the Central Library since 1978.
The city listed the building in February 2022 pointing to a 45% decrease in usage since the 2020 pandemic and decreasing use of the building over time. That mirrored library usage trends around the country. The listing required prospective buyers to invest at least $100 million into the property and redevelop the area as a mixed-use project. The Dart Interests project is expected to exceed that, officials at JLL said.
“We look forward to working with the city and its downtown residents and workforce to bring to life a development that gives more people the opportunity to live, work, play, and experience all that Fort Worth has to offer,” said Christopher Kelsey, Dart Interests president, in a statement.
Dart Interests has over a billion dollars invested in real estate across seven states, including projects in New York, Washington, D.C., South Carolina and Houston, but the Fort Worth project is the company’s first in North Texas.
The city had a requirement that the development include a new space for the library for several years. That requirement limited some potential buyers, Berzina said. But Dart Interests was on board with the library space, he said.
“Now, we don’t know if that’s what the city wants to do, but that’s an available option,” he said.
Todd Burnette, managing director of JLL Fort Worth, who along with Berzina, was part of the team that marketed the property for the city, said the site generated a great deal of interest from around the country.
“You’ve got the largest piece of property available downtown, two contiguous city blocks, so there was a lot of interest,” he said.
Burnette noted that development downtown has recently focused on hotel expansions and that currently there are several downtown residential developments under way. He expects whatever is built on the Central Library property to be part of that.
“We think the residential is truly what’s going to transform downtown Fort Worth,” Burnette said.
He expects residential and retail will kick off the development with office development to follow.
“That’s typically what occurs and in this case, with the interest rate environment as it is, that makes sense,” he said.
However, Burnette said downtown needs new office development. The last new high-rise office in downtown was the Frost Tower, which opened in 2018.
“If you look at downtown, where there’s a 13% class A office vacancy, which means there are very limited full floor options downtown,” he said. That makes relocations or redevelopment of existing spaces difficult, he said.
Corporate America is still trying to figure out how to attract employees back to the office, and the next wave of office development is going to reflect those trends, Burnette said.
“I think once the Fed figures out where the interest rates need to be, we’ll see some very interesting office developments coming, and I think this will be one of them,” he said. “With all the development going on downtown, with Texas A&M and the convention center upgrades, we’re going to see office development.”
The development of the property will not only create new jobs within the towers and during construction, but it will also help generate additional tax revenues for the city, Burnette said. As a city building, the library property isn’t currently on the tax rolls. The new development will add to the city’s tax base, he said.
JLL is also consulting with the city on relocating central library services somewhere downtown. Those plans are still ongoing, JLL officials said.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. 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.