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Top 100 Economic Development Award: Against all odds, Stockyards Heritage Development Co. delivers historic redo

The redevelopment of the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards may stand alone, at least in recent history, as a project that has generated both the most controversy and the most excitement.

When plans were revealed in 2018 for the first phase of the $500 million master-planned Stockyards redevelopment, the reaction was a mix of trepidation and anticipation. What would the $175 million redo of 200,000 square feet of largely ignored horse and mule barns produce? A Western-themed tourist trap, or a respectful development that showcases and preserves the rich Stockyards history of cowboys and cattle drives? It was a difficult question that went to the very heart of Fort Worth history and culture.

But if public perception wasn’t enough of a challenge for the Stockyards Heritage Development Co. – the partnership created by Fort Worth-based Hickman Companies and California-based Majestic Realty Co. to carry out the redevelopment – the endeavor was sidetracked by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The pandemic caused significant delays in construction, hiring and training team members, prompting delays of four to five months in our schedule,” said Craig Cavileer, executive vice president of Majestic Realty Co.

By that time, buzz about the new development drew throngs of visitors to check out the Stockyards transformation.

Completion of the rustic-style luxury Hotel Drover – an Autograph Collection Hotel and the resplendent centerpiece of Mule Alley – was most affected by the impact of COVID-19.

The delays, “combined with limited access to our design team, brought forward the Majestic team to complete the interior design, outdoor pool and landscaping, art procurement and finishes,” Cavileer said.

Some of the retail boutiques and restaurants were able to move into Mule Alley in mid-2020, but the opening of Hotel Drover was delayed until March 2021.

Cavileer said he’s proud that the project was able to overcome an opening day delay and welcome more than 100,000 visitors to the Hotel Drover from all over the U.S. and the state of Texas.

The hotel and accompanying redevelopment have been well-received, not just locally, but also nationally, drawing renewed attention to the area from several national publications.

But Mule Alley and Hotel Drover are only the beginning of what is to come in the Stockyards. Plans for the Stockyards include development of a five-story, 300-unit, multi-family apartment project as well as the renovation of the Cowtown Coliseum in partnership with Professional Bull Riders, which will be the entertainment partner, according to Cavileer.

The Hickman family, which has a long history of property ownership in the Stockyards, couldn’t be more pleased with the results of the Mule Alley and Hotel Drover development project.

“My dad (Holt Hickman) carried a vision of first preserving the history of the Stockyards and wanted others to enjoy the district for generations to come,” said Brad Hickman, who spearheaded the effort for the Hickman family. “We are blessed that he was still with us when we decided to enter into the partnership and we could not be more proud of what we have all accomplished so far.”

Hickman said one of the most satisfying aspects of the Mule Alley transformation is that it is introducing the Stockyards to Fort Worth residents who never before moseyed by to check it out.

“The visitation numbers have increased dramatically but what we are most excited about is that we have so many visitors from the local Fort Worth community and for many, this is the first real exposure to the Stockyards that they have had,” Hickman said. “And they are coming back again and again.”

Hickman Companies has operated several businesses in the commercial real estate, oil and gas, entertainment, and hospitality industries in Fort Worth. The company continues to expand its commercial real estate holdings in Tarrant, Parker, Johnson, and Denton counties.

Majestic Realty Co. is the country’s largest privately held industrial developer.

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