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Fort Worth

Historic downtown building to get renovation, restaurants and retail

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One of downtown Fort Worth’s architectural gems will undergo a significant renovation, expanding its office-building roots to at 500 West 7th Street.

The former Bank of America Center at 500 W. 7th Street has been renamed First on 7th, and is undergoing a significant renovation.

The renovation will expand the office building to include street-level restaurants and retail, and a new pedestrian-friendly greenspace for the surrounding plaza.

The First on 7th name pays tribute to the building’s Fort Worth history – it was originally the First National Bank of Fort Worth building – and its prominence as the western entry to downtown. The project is led by Red Oak Realty for the owner, First on 7th Limited Partnership. Completion is scheduled for year-end 2019.

The building is a 21-story tower on the west end of downtown that features a mid-century modern design with clean, geometric lines and spare décor emblematic that architecture.

The building was designed by New York’s Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, along with associate architect Preston M. Geren of Fort Worth. Completed in 1961, the complex is set off by three modernist outdoor sculptures by Isamu Noguchi, one of the 20th century’s most celebrated designers.

Updates start immediately and include:

• Improved landscaping and abundant shade for the plaza, with a renewed focus on the granite Noguchi sculptures. The result will be a closer visual connection to the adjacent Burnett Park – an original design goal of the project 60 years ago. (The park, on the opposite side of 7th street, is home to the famous Man with Briefcase sculpture.)

• Remodeling of the lobby to remove visual obstructions and emphasize the works of renowned artists of the mid-century period.

• Retail and dining establishments (details to be announced soon).

“With the advent of new residential developments on downtown’s west end, and the area’s increasing popularity as a place to live, work, shop and eat, we think the time is right to bring these amenities to this part of the central business district,” said Red Oak Realty President Jack Clark.

“First on 7th takes its rightful place as the gateway to central downtown from the West,” said Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc. “The new, softer outdoor space, retail and restaurant options will give people what they want on 7th; a charming, human-scaled, hospitable environment that’s part city, part park…with a beautiful park across the street. That’s new for Fort Worth.”

First on 7th closely follows the form of New York City’s famed Lever House, also a Skidmore, Owings & Merrill design, which was completed in 1952. Like Lever House, and Skidmore’s 1955 Manufacturer’s Trust Company building, First on 7th draws from the era’s “less is more” minimalism promoted by Mies van der Rohe. It inspired the design of the nearby Burnett Plaza building, Fort Worth’s tallest skyscraper, which was completed in 1983, and later the neighboring Cantey Hanger building, finished in 2007.

“Our plans are based on a sense of responsibility and stewardship for such an architecturally significant building,” Clark said. “The structure’s essential character and design will remain intact, even as we bring it into the 21st century. We like to say that we’re taking it from modern to modernized.”

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