Renovation: One City Place taking shape as downtown redevelopment continues

Martha Deller Special to the Business Press

If you’re not a middle-aged Fort Worth native, you may not remember earlier incarnations of One City Place, a vacant 19-story building set to join its Throckmorton Street twin as one of downtown’s premier office towers this fall. But the Dallas-based owner of the two towers and their connecting City Place Center, Spire Realty, hopes to incorporate a photographic timeline of the building’s history – first as Leonard’s Department Store and subway, then as Tandy Center and outlet mall and finally as RadioShack headquarters – into the renovated building directed by WDG Architecture of Dallas. “We realize the historical significance of the site,” said Ryan Johnson, asset manager for Spire Realty. “We’re trying to revitalize and breathe new life into the project. We want to lay out the entire history so our patrons and visitors will have an idea of what was there.” But first the owners must complete renovations and finish leasing negotiations for One City Place, which is expected to be open to tenants at 300 Throckmorton St. by late October, Johnson said. Two City Place, the tower renovated by PNL Companies at 100 Throckmorton St., has been leased since 2008 and is now 92 percent occupied, he said. PNL bought the site from RadioShack in 2001 but never developed the second tower, which was initially intended as condos, said Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc. Johnson said Spire was thrilled to purchase the site in 2011 in a thriving downtown ripe for new office space. “It was a large enough scale project that most people weren’t interested in something that size because of the substantial investment required to finish out the new building,” he said. “It was just a wonderful opportunity to own a great piece of real estate.” Before starting work on One City Place, Spire demolished the old Tandy mall that connected the two towers, said Geoff Shelton, marketing director for Holt Lunsford Commercial, the leasing firm. In its place, Spire built a parking garage, surface parking and a pedestrian pavilion with space for restaurants, Johnson said. Now, construction crews are hard at work upgrading and remodeling One City Place to blend in with its twin tower externally but with its own amenities internally, he said. Lead construction firm for the project is Rogers-O’Brien Construction of Dallas. Landscape architecture services were from TBG Partners of Austin, which has a Fort Worth office. The recessed exterior windows that covered the outside of the building are being moved out about 14 inches to be flush with the concrete exterior, Johnson said. That will gain additional floor space and give the building a more updated look, said Shelton. Other renovations include “reskinning” the building exterior with an industrial paint, which seals the concrete and provides the color to match the other tower and adding new infrastructure such as electrical, heating and air conditioning, and elevators, Johnson said. But most important are the valet parking, conference and fitness facilities and other amenities to compete with other Class A downtown office buildings, Shelton said. Prospective tenants for more than 300,000 square feet of space in the 19-story tower range from privately owned businesses seeking 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot offices to law firms, financial services and energy firms that need several floors, he said. The owners expect to have little trouble filling the space at $28.50 per square foot plus electricity – 96 cents higher than the average 2012 rate for Class A office space. Johnson said he has heard of a number of companies who didn’t relocate to Fort Worth because they couldn’t find enough space to accommodate them. “They might have needed 60,000 square feet,” Johnson said. “There might be enough space but in three or four buildings. So they had to go to Dallas or elsewhere. We’ll be able to offer them the space in one place.” Taft said the total of 576,000 square feet of new office space scheduled to open this fall at One City Place and two Sundance Square buildings and next year at another Sundance building may sound like a lot. But actually, he said, that is only 6.8 percent of the existing 10 million square feet of downtown office space, including more than 5 million square feet in buildings like City Place and Sundance, he said. “Since 2006, downtown has maintained an average occupancy of 92.8 percent, all the while increasing the inventory by 4.2 percent, even during the recession,” Taft said. “That’s a very good sign.” Class A office occupancy remains at 93 percent with relatively little new space being added, Taft said. “That’s a very robust rate, so now is actually a very good time to add office space,” he said. Johnson said Spire is excited to be part of the burgeoning high-class office market that includes Sundance Square. “It’s really two great examples of how well the area is thought of for our development and the Sundance development,” he said. Shelton agrees. “Our team and Spire’s team are looking forward to delivering what we feel is the most prominent new Class A building in downtown Fort Worth,” he said.