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Companies have big plans for Fort Worth Stockyards

Posted 8:06am on Thursday, Jun. 05, 2014

The Hickman family, longtime investors and owners of a large portion of the city’s Historic Stockyards in north Fort Worth, said it is partnering with Majestic Realty Co. of California on a $175 million redevelopment project that could bring two more hotels, residences and livestock auctions to the historic district.

The project, which would be completed in three phases, includes property on the north and south sides of Exchange Avenue between NE 23rd Street and NE 28th Street, and the former Swift-Armour packing plant area east of Packers Avenue.

The group is asking the city for an economic development incentive worth $26 million over 25 years as well as the establishment of a tax increment finance district in the Stockyards. Certain criteria regarding investments and construction spending must be met to receive the full incentive.

Craig Cavileer, Majestic Realty’s executive vice president, said the incentives will be used to help fix streets and other public infrastructure.

“What’s so great about the Stockyards, it has an international brand, it’s already iconic, the theme is already determined, the culture is already determined,” Cavileer said. “We just have infrastructure that’s been completely neglected for 60 years.”

Brad Hickman, a vice president of the Hickman Cos., said the partnership with Majestic — to be called Fort Worth Heritage Development LLC — will be an equal joint venture. The two entities have been working on the project for 21/2 years, he said. Majestic, run by one of the owners of the Los Angeles Lakers, is the largest privately held real estate company in the country.

“We are not developers,” Hickman said. “We are land owners and business owners, and we needed to bring someone in who would appreciate the heritage of Fort Worth. The Stockyards is a massive project.”

Jay Chapa, director of the city’s housing and economic development department, in presenting the proposed development agreement to the City Council on Tuesday, said some areas of the Stockyards “need some significant work.”

Chapa said city staff is also asking that design guidelines be established for the Stockyards development to ensure that the area does not lose its heritage. The guidelines could serve as a model for the overall area, he said.

Council members gave their initial support for the proposed project. The council will vote on the incentive package on June 10. Approval for preliminary project plans and a tax increment finance district would come later this year.

Councilman Sal Espino, whose district includes the Stockyards, called the project “an exciting investment. It can spur continued revitalization and redevelopment not just of this wonderful legacy we call the Stockyards, but the entire near north side. We need to move forward.”

Mayor Betsy Price said the project was a remarkable opportunity for the city, but stressed that it must respect the historical character of the Stockyards.

“Western heritage is truly what sets Fort Worth apart from other cities,” she said. “The financial piece of this looks good. Development of the Stockyards as of late has been very flat. This could spark a new chapter in the Stockyards area. That special authenticity of the Stockyards, we have to do our very best to protect.”

The project will be completed in three phases, called Marine Creek District, Swift-Armour District and Stockyards North District.

The Marine Creek area, south of Exchange Avenue, would likely be done first and involve renovating the old mule barns, totaling about 180,000 square feet of space, into destination shops and restaurants and creative office space.

The other phases will involve improving the existing Stockyards Station shopping area; re-establishing on-site livestock auctions and restoring the facilities that once housed those; building new structures for businesses such as breweries, a farmers market and other restaurants; and possibly developing a residential component.

Also, two hotels and offices for corporate headquarters that could employ as many as 1,000 workers are part of the plan.

“This is going to be a process,” Cavileer said. “It’s not an overnight development. The property is not ready for developing, it needs a lot of background work. We’re going to build a great product. It will be based on tenant demand. Right now, we’re in a great [real estate] cycle for that.”

Cavileer said the project would maintain the historic cowboy theme of the Stockyards District.

“We not only embrace this authentic cowboy culture and history, but will strive to preserve and enhance it, and in some cases restore it,” he said. “As the largest landowner in the Stockyards, the Majestic-Hickman partnership understands the importance and significance of our responsibility with this iconic and historic property.”

Majestic Realty was founded in 1948 by Ed Roski Sr. His son, Ed Roski Jr., heads the company today. It has a portfolio of 72 million square feet of commercial space, including mixed-use, entertainment and hospitality space.

Roski Jr. is the co-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Kings, and developed the Staples Center and L.A. Live, a $2.5 billion entertainment complex adjacent to the arena in Los Angeles.

The company said it has 1 million square feet in Fort Worth, in the Railhead Industrial Park and leased to Mattel Corp., and 3 million square feet in North Texas, and operates a regional Dallas office. Cavileer said he and Rex Hoover, a vice president, would oversee the Stockyards project.

Brad Hickman said his father, Holt Hickman, was “fortunate enough years ago to be invited to invest in Billy Bob’s Texas and reopen that in the early ’80s. In the late ’80s, he bought most of the rest of the Stockyards.”

Hickman partnered with Lyda Hill in Dallas and the two developed the Stockyards Station, the Hyatt Place hotel and about 40 acres of the historic district. But now the family wants to pursue additional development, he said.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST

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