Fort Worth May Spend $95M on Convention Center and Surrounding District

Plans are already in place to spend $52 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to expand the Fort Worth Convention Center. Now the city is considering spending $43 million more to realign Commerce Street, allowing for the development of a Convention Center District that could feature "a dynamic urban design mix of new shops, restaurants, and other experiences."

Two months after selecting AECOM Hunt, Byrne Construction Services, and EJ Smith to manage “the full scope” of phase one of a major expansion of the Fort Worth Convention Center with a budget of up to $30 million, the city’s plans for the area could be getting even bigger.

In 2021, the Fort Worth City Council approved using $52 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds on the convention center expansion. The project includes a new, state-of-the-art industrial kitchen at ballroom level and demolishing the annex to increase the number of loading docks to 19. The docks will be hidden behind a video screen wall or decorative wall along Commerce Street, the city says.

But wait, there’s more:

Advisory committee recommends spending $43M more to create Convention Center District

An advisory committee of community stakeholders and project team representatives recently recommended that the city council spend an additional $43 million to realign Commerce Street, allowing for the development of a Convention Center District that could feature “a dynamic urban design mix of new shops, restaurants, and other experiences.”

The additional costs would bring the project total to $95 million. The city council will consider issuing revenue bonds to pay for this project phase in February, the city said, noting that consultants have recommended these changes for 20 years.

“Fort Worth’s potential to compete for larger, more lucrative conference and meeting business will begin to be realized this year,” Mike Crum, Fort Worth’s public events director, said in a statement. “With possible construction starting in August, we will execute the first steps of a visionary plan designed by leading industry professionals and vetted by community stakeholders.”

Expanded project would keep pace with new downtown developments

Part of what spurred the plans for a full-fledged Convention Center District is what’s happening in other parts of the city’s downtown. 

In January, the Texas A&M University System said its planned downtown research campus—newly named Texas A&M-Fort Worth—is moving ahead rapidly toward construction with a budget of $350 million. Other recent downtown developments, including two big apartment conversions at historic downtown towers, as well as “the demands of the ever-changing convention industry,” added to impetus for expanding the convention center project. 

Project could include a large atrium, site for a future hotel, and more

The city says possible project plans for the Convention Center District could include: 

  • Building a deck for unique outdoor meeting space over the convention center’s expanding loading docks
  • Redesigning the southeast entrance to the building with a large atrium
  • Creating a site for a future convention hotel along Commerce Street
  • “Trellis-ing” Commerce Street at the Convention Center to create a destination

Work could begin this summer

Fort Worth Convention Center [Photo: typhoonski/iStock]

The city said work on the project could begin this summer and be completed in 2026. The city council was updated in late January on the timeline and scope of the project.

Plans remain in place to remove the 1968-built arena at the north end of the convention center and replace it with additional meeting and event space. An increase in the city’s hotel occupancy tax is being considered as a funding source for that part of the project.

Once completed, the expanded convention center will meet a city goal of serving as a counterpoint to the historic Tarrant County courthouse on the other end of Main Street.

The convention center will continuing operating through all the construction, the city added.

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