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The Landmark Green Oaks Hotel in Fort Worth has Date with Wrecking Ball

By Sandra Baker, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, TexasMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 28, 2007 - The landmark Green Oaks Hotel in west Fort Worth, famous for hosting Elvis Presley and other celebrities, will be torn down in December to make room for a three-story office building and possibly another hotel, its owners said Monday.

The 42-year-old hotel's employees were told late last week about the plans and to not book business or guests beyond November, said Bill Cawley, chairman and chief executive of Dallas-based Cawley Wilcox, the development firm that bought the 284-room hotel in 2002.

Construction will begin on a 185,000-square-foot office building in January. The speculative offices should be ready for tenants in late 2008 or early 2009, the company said.

The office building will use only 7 acres of the site, which is roughly 12 acres in size, said Kenneth Reese, the project's manager.

"We do have enough land to develop a hotel on the site in conjunction with the office building, and we are in talks with several flagship hotel companies and also looking at whether we develop it ourselves," Reese said.

Although business is good -- the hotel is fully booked during many times of the year -- the owners have been thinking about tearing down the outdated hotel for more than a year, Reese said.

"It's just time," he said. "This is in response to where the market is."

The Green Oaks Hotel, 6901 West Freeway, is managed by Dallas-based Hospitality Management Corp. Reese said the hotel's employees will probably be reassigned to other hotels run by Hospitality Management. According to its Web site, the company operates hotels throughout Texas and in Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The Tudor-style structure, which opened in December 1965 as the Green Oaks Inn, is on the south side of Interstate 30 across from Ridgmar Mall. Among the celebrities it has hosted through the years are Tina Turner, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Janet Leigh, John Forsythe and Jimmy Durante. Presley stayed there in 1974 when he performed at the Tarrant County Convention Center.

Cawley Wilcox bought the hotel from LaSalle Bank of Chicago, which had foreclosed on Calstar of Laguna Niguel, Calif., for defaulting on its loan. The bank ran the hotel for about two years.

Cawley Wilcox also owns the Overton Centre office complex near Hulen Street and Interstate 20 in southwest Fort Worth, and the Ridglea Bank Building off Camp Bowie Boulevard. More than a year ago the company was in talks to buy land in downtown Fort Worth where it considered building a 60-story office and condominium tower.

Reese said that the final design for the office building is not set, but that it will be a LEED certified building. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a building rating system that serves as the nationally accepted benchmark for green buildings, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

"We believe it is the right thing to do for the community and for the marketplace," Reese said. "This will incorporate both energy-efficient systems and environmental-friendly materials that will benefit the tenants."

The existing oak trees, some of which are 42 inches in diameter, will be saved, he said.

"We are in the design phase of incorporating into the building a feature to pay homage to the Green Oaks Hotel and its history in Fort Worth," Reese said. "There will be water features, the large oak trees and exterior glass elements that will allow for interaction with the water and views of downtown Fort Worth."

A name has not been chosen, he said.

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Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 sabaker@star-telegram.com

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To see more of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.dfw.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas

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