In 1931, the Texas & Pacific station welcomed rail passengers to Fort Worth with Art Deco elegance. The lobby was resplendent with marble floors, gilded ceilings, and extravagant chandeliers. In addition to serving passengers, the building included 11 floors of office space.
But in 1958 the building was cut off from the rest of downtown when an elevated portion of Interstate 30 was run along Lancaster Avenue in front of the building. Passenger service to the T&P ceased in 1967. The offices were gutted and their terrazzo floors covered with shabby industrial carpet.
The building began to come back to life when rail service was re-established between Dallas and Fort Worth in 2001. The main lobby, owned by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, was restored in exquisite detail. Then I-30 was relocated and the elevated freeway demolished. The city embarked on a $15 million project to redevelop Lancaster Avenue as a pedestrian-oriented urban boulevard.
Yet the upper 11 floors of the T&P still sat vacant. When Patrick Trask, developer with Houston-based Wood Partners, first saw them, they were “pretty grim,” he recalls. Particularly depressing were the elevators, originally designed to match the gilded splendor of the lobby. “They had stripped out all the Art Deco details and covered them in yellow Formica. Yuck.” Nevertheless, Trask saw potential. Working closely with lenders and equity partners, Wood Partners purchased the property in 2003.
GOVERNMENT ISSUES Trask knew it would take more than private financing to renovate the T&P. He worked with the city to put together a package of abatements and incentives including a tax-increment financing district. “You couldn't have a more for ward-thinking city than Fort Worth,” says Trask. “Everyone supported what we were trying to do.”
Not all government relationships went so smoothly, however. The team sought historic preservation tax credits through the National Park Service but ran into a dispute over ceiling heights. NPS insisted the team restore the original 8-foot-high ceilings and wouldn't allow loft-style high ceilings with exposed piping and ductwork. Despite a year of negotiations, NPS wouldn't budge, so Trask walked away, determined to pursue his vision.
In hindsight, Trask believes it was the right decision because the program would have limited the building to use as apartments, and the Wood Partners team ultimately decided condominiums were best for the market. Nevertheless, Trask says, “It should be less difficult to save old buildings.”
BLENDING OLD AND NEW Ten of the building's 11 floors had been completely gutted in the 1960s, so all new construction was provided for the one- and two-bedroom units. Ranging from 566 to 1,300 square feet, the condos feature stainless steel appliances, marble countertops, and expansive closets—along with original terrazzo floors. On the second floor, architects were able to restore the original marble wainscoting, frosted glass doors and steel casement windows.
To achieve its desired density, Wood Partners also constructed a 92-unit mid-rise next door. “We took some of the elements of the old building and emulated them in the new construction,” says architect Mike Hampton of Womack + Hampton. The most imitative features are towers at the corners of the mid-rise that echo those of the original.
The T&P sales office occupies what had been the black waiting room in segregation days. Wood Partners is working with the Fort Worth Black Historical and Genealogical Society to to commemorate the space, which has been restored to match the lobby.