Building Conversions: A brief history

January 2023 By: Now.Town


2023 kicked off with back-to-back announcements of two mid-century highrises getting converted from office to residential. The trend of converting office towers into other uses first begin to ramp up in Fort Worth in the late 1990s and has accelerated in recent years.

A common target for conversions are older class-B office towers that are struggling to hit high occupancy rates. The smaller floorplates of pre-war to mid-century buildings make them easier to convert into hotels or residential buildings, where windows are highly valued. Comparatively, the larger floorplates of office buildings built from the 1980s onward will be more challenging to ever convert away from their current uses.

Residential Conversions

The Historic Electric Building was one of the first significant conversions when the building went from office to 106 apartment units in 1996.

Houston Place Lofts were also converted in 1996. Houston Place is the oldest building to have been converted, having originally been built in 1906 with an addition built in 1918. Houston Place Lofts contains 30 units.

The 11-story Neil P. Lofts building, located across 7th street from the Electric Building, was converted into 56 condominium units in 2004.

The Tower is a unique, and memorable case. It is both the tallest and youngest building to be converted, being 37 stories tall and having been originally built in 1974. The John Portman-designed building served as offices for the Fort Worth National Bank. The building took a direct hit during the March 2000 tornado and was subsequently abandoned for years, clad with plywood. After nearly being demolished, the building was saved by TLC Realty Advisors who turned the building into 315 condominiums and gave the Tower a new podium with retail and office space.

The 12-story T&P Terminal, built 1931 as a station on the Texas & Pacific Railway, is an art deco landmark on the south end of downtown and converted from office into condominiums in 2006. T&P Terminal was partially restored several years prior and serves as the terminus for the TRE and TEXRail commuter rail trains.

The Oil & Gas Building was purchased by Bluelofts in early 2023, who announced plans to convert the building into 135 units. The adjacent Star-Telegram appears on Blueloft's website with a note of 105 units, which seems to indicate that at least part of that building will also be converted, though no formal announcements have been made.

A week after the Oil & Gas announcement, news broke that the 1952 Oncor Building had sold and would be converted into 300 rental units by Chicago-based 3L Real Estate. The building had been for sale since 2020.

Several smaller buildings have also gone from office to residential, including the Kress Building and the Sanger Lofts building.

Outside of Downtown, the most notable conversion is Montgomery Plaza, which added 330 condo units in the former warehouse. The 1928 building received significant alterations, the most notable of which is a large hole that was punched through the center of the South facade that serves as a sort of main street through the building and into the development.

Several residential conversions have occured along the 7th St canyon. Visible here, from left to right, are the Historic Electric Building, Oncor Building, Star-Telegram Building, Oil & Gas Building and The Neil P.

The green glass building is The Tower, and the orange-brick building is the Oncor Building, the most recently announced residential conversion. The Kimpton Harper Hotel, also an office conversion, is visible on the right.

Hotel Conversions

The Sinclair Hotel, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, was the first major transformation hotel downtown. The property was sold in 2013 and renovations began to convert the building into a 164-room hotel which opened in late 2019. The hotel blended the art deco styling of the 1930 building with cutting-edge technology, which led to the building being featured in Fortune and The Today Show.

While not a full conversion, six floors of the 20-floor Two CityPlace tower were converted into a 180-room Aloft Hotel in 2018. The building's ground floor includes the hotel's lobby and bar, while the hotel's pool is contained in the basement of the building. At one time there was a plan to convert the entire building into residences, but that failed to materialize.

The departure of XTO in 2017 led to a boom in office to hotel conversions. XTO had meticulously restored several of downtown historic highrises, but after the company was purchased by Exxon and relocated to The Woodlands, all of the towers were put up for sale. Three would be purchased and turned into hotels.

714 Main, built in 1921 as offices for the Farmers & Mechanics National Bank, became the Kimpton Harper Hotel which opened in 2021 with 226 rooms.

The W.T. Waggoner Building was sold to Tom Gaglardi, owner of the Dallas Stars and Sandman Signature hotels. The tower was originally built in 1920 and the new hotel will contain 245 rooms when it opens.

While work has not yet begun, Icon Lodging purchased the Bob Simpson Building and announced plans to develop the property as a hotel.

The W.T. Waggoner building will reopen soon as a Sandman Signature Hotel.

The Sinclair Hotel was one of the first office to hotel conversions.

Remaining unchanged

Only a few pre-war highrises in Fort Worth remain the same use as they were originally built.

The 1926 Fort Worth Club Building was built as an office for the club and continues to be used by the Club today. A small portion of the building is used as a hotel.

The 1914 Burk Burnett Building, which overlooks Sundance Square Plaza, was built as office and remains in that use. However, there have been some teases that the building might be earmarked for a future hotel.

Sundance Square bought the 1927 Petroleum Building from XTO, but has never announced any plans for the building.

The 1925 Sanger Brothers Building continues to be used for offices and will likely for the foreseeable future as it received a major remodel in 2018.

Additionally, two pre-war highrises were built as hotels and remain hotels, the Courtyard by Marriott Blackstone and the Hilton Fort Worth.

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