July 19, 2007
The dilapidated T&P Warehouse on the south edge of downtown Fort Worth will get as much as $9.1 million in tax money for renovations and construction of 260 apartments or condominiums under a deal reached with city officials.
The developer, Dallas-based Cleopatra Investments, plans to spend at least $35 million on the initial phase of the project, which is expected to be completed by 2012. A second phase, which would bring the project's overall cost to $75 million, might include retail space on the first floor and landscaping 5 acres of property behind the building.
"It is one of the two bookends to the old post office and key to revitalization of the Lancaster corridor," said City Council member Wendy Davis, who represents the downtown district. "It won't make any difference if we put in new light fixtures and a new street if we can't bring the building back to life."
The Fort Worth council was briefed on the deal Tuesday and is expected to vote formally to approve it in coming weeks. The project would be funded through a special taxing district that was created to spur development along Lancaster.
It has taken city officials nearly four years to reach an agreement with Cleopatra President Ola Assem. The T&P Warehouse was most recently used as a haunted house and had been leased as a paintball arena but otherwise has been largely vacant since the 1970s.
Assem has been working for several years to develop a project for the building.
"It is hard to say what kind of impact it will have on the Lancaster corridor, but it is definitely positive progress," Assem said. "The land faces 742 feet of Lancaster. That would be a major property on any street. But it is a very important building as far as historic Fort Worth architecture."
The warehouse was built in 1931 along with the T&P depot and the old main post office. The site has a historic designation, so renovations will require approval from the Fort Worth Landmarks Commission and the Downtown Design Review Board; to keep tax credits, the plan must also face scrutiny from the federal park service and the Texas Historical Commission.
Attorneys are expected to finalize next week an agreement that would include clauses to preserve the historic facade of the T&P Warehouse and reduce or eliminate tax incentives should the developer convert the space into condominiums.
Condominiums are unlikely, however, because they would eliminate certain tax benefits available to historic buildings, said Jay Chapa, Fort Worth's deputy economic development director.
Council members were also briefed Tuesday on other Lancaster Avenue projects.
Assistant City Manager Dale Fisseler said traffic will be moved to the newly constructed lanes of Lancaster Avenue as early as next month. The street construction could be completed as early as October but most likely will not be finished until early 2008, he said.
And plans were unveiled for six 35-foot-high metal sculptures to be placed in the divided median of the new downtown stretch of Lancaster. The sculptures, which cost $220,000 each, will use metal plates that appear transparent at eye level and use reflected light to appear illuminated.
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