Historic Sinclair Building repurposed

August 3, 2019

The Sinclair Hotel Fort Worth

A Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel
512 Main St., Fort Worth 76102

Original architect: Wiley G. Clarkson

Original contractor: Harry B. Friedman

Restoration Architect: Merriman Anderson/Architects (MAA)

Construction: Byrne Construction

General Manager: Tammy Vallejos

Director of Sales and Marketing: John Klukan

During his travels around the globe, Farukh Aslam stayed in hotels of all shapes and sizes. But what caught the globetrotter's imagination was the age of some of the establishments.

Aslam, a hotelier by trade, saw more and more historic structures being converted into hotels.

They included centuries-old castles in England and industrial-age factories in Barcelona.

"You see some amazing hotels from 150-year-old buildings that are absolutely spectacular," Aslam said. "Whereas, there's a cookie-cutter approach you see in Hilton Garden Inn, Marriott Courtyard – they all look identical."

Aslam owns a Hampton Inn & Suites and a SpringHill Suites by Marriott, both in the Fossil Creek area in Fort Worth.

To try something unique, Aslam bought the downtown property at 512 Main St. in 2013.

After two years of planning, the concept of a new boutique hotel in Fort Worth finally took shape in the form of The Sinclair Hotel, a Marriott Autograph Collection property.

"The wealthy people like to travel and stay at these historic buildings, which creates a very nice experience for guests, and that was my motivation," Aslam said about Sinclair Hotel.

From a developer's point of view, repurposing old buildings into hotels could also be a cost-effective and environmentally sound option.

While demolishing a building and constructing a new one has certain associated high costs and construction waste, repurposing an old office building into a new hotel comes with its share of complications.

"You don't have two rooms alike because there are historic walls, historic corridors, everything has to fit behind those walls. You couldn't move those walls," Aslam said. "They had to be preserved and kept during this construction period."

After all, preservation of history is the underlying theme of Sinclair Hotel.

According to historical records, oilman Richard Otto Dulaney built the building in 1929 for an estimated $750,000, or about $11.2 million in today’s dollars, adjusted for inflation.

A year later, Sinclair Oil Company became the building's first tenants, giving the building its name.

Although the Great Depression had hit the U.S. economy hard in the early 1930s, Fort Worth was rolling in money from the Texas oil boom. If anything, the art deco Sinclair Building symbolizes Fort Worth's modern history of wealth tied to the oil industry.

And the hope is, Aslam said, the hotel brings in tourists seeking to learn that history.

"It generates economic activity. Those people come into town and spend money in the area," he said. "That's another way of looking at creating this iconic property is to bring people in who just want to stay and experience this. They'll come have dinner here; they'll come spend money shopping and sightseeing Fort Worth. It puts this city on the map."

The visitors are indeed coming in record numbers, prospering the city's tourism industry every year.

According to official data, Fort Worth welcomed about 9.4 million tourists, who generated $2.6 billion in economic impact last year.

"Fort Worth is one of the fastest-growing large cities in the country, so we're getting a lot of interest,” said Becky Fetty, director of marketing and membership for Downtown Fort Worth Inc. "We're getting a lot of people into downtown and there's great things happening all over the city that's driving traffic into downtown."

Currently, there are 12 hotels, totaling 3,051 hotel rooms, in downtown Fort Worth. It amounts to almost 30% of the city's inventory.

The dozen hotels paid 32.9% of Fort Worth's total hotel occupancy taxes in 2018, according to data from DFWI. The Sinclair Hotel will open this fall with 164 new guest rooms, which is a much-needed addition for the city and guests alike.

In 2018, the downtown hotels had an occupancy rate of 73.8%, relatively higher compared to the national rate of 66.2% and downtown Dallas at 64.1%.

"With demands, we found that we were lacking in the total room numbers that we had," Fetty said. "And developers have just really jumped at the opportunity to change some of the current downtown inventory that we had."

AC Hotel is also undergoing construction nearby, which when completed will add about 246 additional rooms. Other downtown hotel projects, like Avid Hotel, Waggnoner Building and Kimpton Hotel are also in the pipeline.

Apart from the economic benefits, refurbishing the Sinclair Building into a luxury hotel will contribute to the Fort Worth's culture as well, Fetty said.

"What this Marriott Autograph hotel has done is they've kept the historical integrity of that building," Fetty said. "And they've enhanced it. They've really created something special."

Although the building may be old and full of history, the new Sinclair Hotel is ultramodern when it comes to high-tech amenities.

Its many technological features include:

• Internet-connected mirrors that offer audio and video content

• Digital showers with controls for temperature, water pressure, lighting and sound

• Fitness center with equipment that generates power when guests use them

• LG 8K Wallpaper TVs; and

• Fiber GPON-deployed internet access, as well as other accoutrements.

The Sinclair is also the world's first hotel to use POE – power over ethernet – technology to power its lights.

The building has more than 2,000 lights, and each of them has an IP address and connects to a computer network. This means that every light in the building can be controlled remotely with an internet-connected device from anywhere in the world.

The POE capability is estimated to reduce the building's energy consumption by 40%. Installing a POE system requires less material and almost no electrical expertise.

Keeping the environmentally conscious brand concept intact, the building's backup power generators run on lithium ion batteries, not diesel fuel. Even in a power outage, the lights in Sinclair Hotel will work for almost three hours.

Installing a first-of-its-kind electrical system had its own set of challenges and required a lot of planning. Sinclair contracted two Houston-based companies, LED Industries and Estelles Lighting, to design and build the system. Patrick Hazard, AIA, senior associate, team leader at Merriman Anderson/Architects, who worked on the revived Sinclair, said there were challenges.

“Like any historic building, challenges arise from adapting a building for a use not originally designed for, around new building codes and requirements not originally designed for, and with limitations of work that can be done to historic features through the historic tax credit program,” he said. “Sinclair was made more difficult in that it was not an abandoned building that was to be adapted, but an active office building with tenants, which limited the ability to field verify existing conditions prior to construction starting.”

Despite that, Hazard implementing new technologies created some excitement around the project.

“The use of new industry technologies has made this project exciting, but required a new way of thinking – not just by the design team but also by the contractor and building inspectors,” he said. “The Sinclair Hotel will be the first hotel in the world to use POE technology to power all of its lighting. Motorized shades and drapes, guestroom VRF air conditioning units, and up to 55-inch televisions will all be powered by the POE technology, and it is projected to save 35% of power used than in a typical building.”

A group of electrical and electronics engineers worked continually for three months to develop the technology, including specially designed printed circuit boards, as well as the actual lights. All the lights are low-voltage, and don’t transmit heat or current externally. Each room has digital light switches, enabling guests to create custom lighting according to their preferred mood.

Estelles Lighting CEO Shahab Kazmi said: "We do a lot of hotels in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, but this one was a special and very different thing."

For Merriman’s Hazard, this difference will be appreciated by visitors and locals alike. “The Sinclair Hotel will provide locals and visitors to Fort Worth with a luxury destination to stay, have a meal at one of the restaurants, or to grab a drink at the rooftop bar and enjoy the views of downtown Fort Worth,” he said.