Downtown high-rise: Firm planning 30+ story building in Fort Worth

Southern Land Co. rendering of proposed high-rise. 

A new high-rise luxury living option could be coming to Fort Worth in about three years thanks to Southern Land Company. The 31-32 story addition to the Fort Worth skyline would be built on an “L-shaped” plot of land at 901 Commerce St. where a parking lot structure currently stands adjacent to the Billy Miner’s Building.

On Sept. 7, Southern Land Company came to the Downtown Design Review Board with a request for approval of its building, massing and form for the construction of their mixed-use high-rise structure. This type of approval is considered an “approval of the building’s footprint/concept,” and is only the first step toward the construction of the project.

Southern Land Project’s request was approved unanimously by the Board. Representatives from Southern Land Project could not yet project the cost of the project’s construction. The architect for the project will be GDA Architects.

This project must also be approved at later dates for, among other things, design and materials. Todd Marchesani, director of acquisitions for Southern Land Project, estimated that the company has about a year to a year and a half before they can begin construction, and then about 24 months of construction before completion. Currently, Southern Land Company is contracting the land, through Marchesani expects to close on the land later this month.

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The 901 Commerce project will include about 24 floors of residential space starting on the eighth floor, for about 250-295 apartments total. The ground floor of the building will house the lobby and 5,000-6,000 square feet of residential space. Below the ground level there will be two floors of parking accessible from the ramp off of 9th Street, and above the ground level will be six floors of parking accessible from the ramp off of 8th Street.

“We look all over the country for sites. We are a boutique developer and we only start about 4 or 5 projects a year,” said Ben Crenshaw, senior vice president of design at Southern Land Company. “What we are looking for are sites really just like this one, in the great urban fabric that we can participate in an established neighborhood and that we can sort of expand on what’s already started.”

The net rentable square footage of the project was estimated by Marchesani at 250,000-280,000 square feet. The first level of residential will be partially filled with apartments and partially filled with amenities including the fitness center, covered patio, amenity lounge, chef’s kitchen and pool and outdoor area.

Downtown Design Review Board staff initially presented the project to the Board and recommended it for approval. During Board discussion Board Chair Kirk Millican recommended the developer have façade variation toward the top of the project, including possibly some two-story penthouses rather than simply one-story apartments.

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The 901 Commerce project will be Southern Land Company’s fifth project in the Metroplex, but its first in Fort Worth. The company had been looking for a site for its next area project for about three years before settling in on 901 Commerce St.

While the 901 Commerce project was not contentious, another item on the agenda was. Co-working space company wework is moving into 300 Throckmorton St. and requested a Certificate of Appropriateness to install crown building signage, second floor tenant signage, and pedestrian-level tenant monument signage.

The crown of building signage is 5’7’’ tall and 26’ across and would be located in the uppermost concrete square of the building. The sign would read “wework” and would be made of black welded aluminum and would light up white at night through its internally illuminated letters. The Downtown Fort Worth Design Review Committee and the Fort Worth Chamber both recommended approval of the project, but the proposal met contention from Johnny Campbell with Sundance Square and many of the Board members.

Campbell expressed enthusiastic support for the company wework but expressed concern that allowing one skyline-altering building to add crown signage would set a precedent for other tall buildings and would negatively impact the day and night-time views of the Fort Worth skyline.

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“In order to fit into the community of Fort Worth, in my opinion, we would start by respecting the history of the architecture and how Fort Worth has operated all of these years,” Campbell said, calling attention to the fact that the buildings taller than 10 stories in the Fort Worth skyline have no top of the building signage.

“Fort Worth is in a position right now to either preserve what we’ve been doing or open the door to something that carries on further,” he added. “I’m only here to say I think we need to think of this in a much larger scope before we start putting the signs on the tops of the buildings.”

Matt Montegue with JLL real estate offered a rebuttal to Campbell’s comments, adding that because of the type of company wework is – a coworking, tenant leasing-type company – “they have to acticvate their space to make their revenie … and let the product and location speak for themselves.”

Montegue added that the offering of the crown signage was one of the elements that helped draw the company to Fort Worth in the first place.

Place 2 Board Member Andrew Blake said he thought the signage was subtle enough not to make a substantial impact and made a motion to approve all requested signage for wework, though he said initially upon reading the request he wouldn’t have expected to be in support of it. His fellow board members did not agree, however, adding that allowing this one instance of crown signage could be a “Gateway Drug” to allowing all downtown buildings to have it, and his motion died without a second.

After some lengthy discussion, Gwen Harper made a motion to approve all signage except for the crown of building signage, requesting a continuance on that issue for next month’s meeting and asking that the company come back with photos of the sign superimposed on the building to show the impact on the day and night view of the skyline.

Harper’s motion carried with all but Millican in approval.

Signage was a hot topic at the meeting with 7-11 owner Jacob Capetillo also requesting a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage at his 1401 W. 7th St. location.

Because of Exxon’s national gas partnership with 7-11 the company is going around 7-11 locations requesting to add Exxon signage to the area. Capetillo’s proposal included a proposed sign reface to add Exxon’s logo to the pedestrian-level sign, the logo and a red strip across the top of the gas station and the following additions to the lower gas-pump area:

— Red “Waves” on one side of the gas pump to allow for poster ads and to support “Blade” signs that read “Fuel Technology Synergy.”

— Number wedges to represent which pump the patron is at.

— “Koala” column-hugging, red plastic poster-ad holders that can support 1-3 poster ads dependent on “Koala” size on the side opposite of the “Waves” on the pumps.

As the station is considered to be at the “gateway to downtown Fort Worth” by the board, the excess of bright red color and clutter of the various methods of signage was not met with approval by the board. Not contentious at all, the group moved to approve the signage package minus the “Waves,” “Koalas,” “Blades” and the red strip across the top of the station. The motion was approved unanimously

Also at the meeting the Board unanimously approved Certificates of Appropriateness to construct a single-family residence at 1015 Mayfield St. and 1804 Glenmore Ave. for Jesse and Rose Alaniz and Kane and Joshua Urban respectively.