Downtown hotel: Historic Sinclair Building to get new life as upscale Marriott hotel

Downtown Fort Worth’s historic Sinclair Building would be transformed into an upscale Marriott Autograph Collection hotel, and the empty and former Hilton Annex would be made over into corporate apartments, under plans related ownership groups have for three central business district buildings.

Sinclair Holdings LLC, owner of the 1930-era Art Deco Sinclair office building at 512 Main St., plans to convert it into a 165-room hotel, with a basement restaurant and rooftop bar, said Farukh Aslam, a minority shareholder. Sinclair Holdings would own the hotel, and the Marriott Autograph Collection would manage it, he said.

The 16-story building would be connected by skybridge to the neighboring STS Tower at 515 Houston St., and its owner – Fossil Creek Land Partners – plans to install a spa and banquet rooms that would serve the hotel, said Aslam, also a minority shareholder in Fossil Creek. The 1925 building, originally designed for the Sanger Bros. Department Store, later held the Color Tile headquarters and now is houses data centers.

Nearby, the owners of the former 13-story Hilton Annex plan to convert the building into 140 furnished corporate apartments, said Aslam, a minority owner in that company, the Hotel Texas Annex LLC.

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Fort Worth’s Downtown Design Review Board on Feb. 5 approved various aspects of the owners’ design plans on the Sinclair Building and Hilton Annex, where Aslam and the groups’ design team, headed by Merriman Associates Architects, disclosed their plans.

The groups need key approvals from the Texas Historic Commission. The planned exterior changes for the Sinclair Building are before the city’s Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission. The National Parks Service also needs to sign off.

Aslam confirmed his groups are also seeking economic development incentives from the city for the work on all three buildings, and are in the process of trying to determine which expenses may be eligible.

“They’re still being considered,” Aslam said.

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Marriott also runs the Worthington Renaissance, Courtyard Fort Worth Downtown/Blackstone, and TownePlace Suites Fort Worth Downtown hotels. Its addition of an Autograph Collection, whose average daily rates chainwide are $175 per night, would be the latest verification of the hot interest by hotel developers in downtown. The Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau recently re-iterated its estimate that downtown needs at least 1,000 more hotel rooms to serve demand.

Aslam gave credit to former XTO Energy CEO Bob Simpson for restoring several historic buildings downtown, and said his groups want to follow.

“There’s an effort in downtown to bring all these old buildings back and really restore the interiors,” he said.

Sinclair Holdings bought the Sinclair Building in late 2013. The Fossil Creek partnership bought the STS Tower more than 15 years ago.

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Assuming he gets his approvals, Aslam said Sinclair Holdings could start construction in the third quarter and complete it for a December 2016 opening.

Architects’ conceptual drawings for the building, on the tax rolls at 99,428 square feet, depict a lush basement steakhouse, rooftop bar with intimate lounges, and stylish foyer. Merriman showed conceptual exterior and interior drawings for all three buildings during the Feb. 5 design review board meeting.

The board approved an exterior glass-enclosed fire escape stairwell on the side of the building, skybridge, bar and clear glass block treatments on the sidewalk outside that will allow natural light in the downstairs dining room.

Sinclair Holdings notified ground-floor commercial tenants, including the Picchi Pacchi and Subway restaurants and a cigar shop, several months ago that the owners would not renew their leases as they expire, Aslam said. The Picchi Pacchi space will be a ground-floor bar, and the Subway will become the entry into the basement restaurant, he said.

The owners will have to work with the interior space as-is, Aslam said. Because of the building’s historical status, the owners can’t alter the interior, he said.

In renovating the 96,418-square-foot STS Tower, Aslam said the owners plan to retain the data center tenants. The work on that building required no approvals from the design review board. The ground floor has a restaurant, Ojos Locos, whose lease expires this summer.

Aslam said he hasn’t heard yet whether the restaurant intends to move out. If it does, he said he wants to redevelop the space for specialty retail.

Sundance Square, a block away, is deepening its specialty retail lineup, and Aslam said his group wants to follow that in the STS Tower.

Hotel Texas Annex, LLC, which bought the 239,040-square-foot Annex last year, plans a renovation of the ground-floor space for commercial; a new, louvered skirt wall to shield the five floors of parking; and corporate efficiency and studio apartments on the top eight floors that were once hotel rooms.

The Annex was built in 1967 atop an old garage and connected by skybridge to the historic Hotel Texas, where President Kennedy spent his last night before heading the next day to Dallas, where he was assassinated. The hotel today is the Hilton Fort Worth.

Aslam said the ownership groups are still completing estimates on construction costs, but he said they’ve lined up their key financing.

“That part is done,” he said.

One of Aslam’s groups also owns a parking lot at Fifth and Main streets, Aslam said. “We’ll probably put a building there, we’re not sure yet,” he said.