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Hickman, Majestic Realty of California partners in proposed Stockyards project

By Scott Nishimura

Fort Worth’s Hickman family - longtime investors and developers in the Historic Stockyards - and Majestic Realty Co of California are teaming up on a planned major 1 million-square-foot, $175 million redevelopment project in the Stockyards.

The Fort Worth Heritage Development LLC partnership infuses a major new player into the Stockyards.

It takes in a major portion of the Stockyards holdings currently held by the Hickman family and Dallas investor Lyda Hunt Hill, including the Stockyards Station festival center and the Mule Barns, Majestic principal Craig Cavileer and Hickman vice president Brad Hickman said in an interview Tuesday. Hill has decided to exit her interests and is in negotiation with the partnership, they said.

“The Stockyards is a massive project,” Hickman, son of Fort Worth businessman Holt Hickman, the Stockyards’ largest property owner, who assembled his holdings in the 1980s and 1990s.

Explaining why the family needed a major partner, he said, “we’re landowners, we’re not developers. We’re business owners.”

Cavileer, whose firm, like Hickman’s also is family owned, said the Stockyards’ appeal is in its brand.

“It’s iconic,” he said.

The deal does not include the Hickman family’s 100 percent ownership interest in the Exchange Building, or its majority interest in Stockyards 2000, an entity whose holdings include Billy Bob’s Texas.

The partnership is asking the city for up to $26 million in incentives over 25 years for infrastructure, the city's housing and economic development director, Jay Chapa, told the City Council Tuesday. The council will vote June 10 on the incentive agreement.

The partners, in a letter June 2 to Mayor Betsy Price, also said they believe a tax increment finance district is the best way to fund necessary improvements in the Stockyards in the future. The council on Tuesday assented to those discussions.

The partners agreed to invest a minimum $175 million over 10 years - among various triggers in the agreement - for the maximum incentive.

Cavileer and Hickman said the partnership will be a 50-50 split.

The first phase could include a redevelopment of the 200,000 square feet of historic Mule Barns along East Exchange Avenue, the partners said.

The partners believe the Mule Barns are “ripe for renovation and redevelopment,” including restaurants and entertainment, but the buildings need major infrastructure work, Cavileer said.

“That’s a lot of square footage,” he said. “Right now, it’s there kind of as a monument.”

Cavileer and Hickman also said they’re interested in recruiting potential corporate relocations to the Stockyards. Companies in the 250-400 range that fit the Stockyards’ history and culture have already inquired, they said, and they believe they could accommodate relocations of up to 1,000 employees.

The Mule Barns are one location, Cavileer said, and new construction is another option.

“It’s amazing, without even trying, what we’ve turned down,” Cavileer said.

They’re also interested in restarting live cattle auctions, which would require renovations to the buildings north of Exchange.

Majestic, in the letter to Price and the council, sought to make them comfortable with having a new major partner in the Stockyards.

"Majestic is fortunate to have a perfect partner in the Holt Hickman family (a family owned business three generations strong)," the letter says.

Cavileer and Majestic vice president Rex Hoover comprise the Majestic Fort Worth leadership team, Cavileer said in his letter. Cavileer said he grew up in Austin, and Hoover grew up in Fort Worth and Austin.

The proposed plan, outlined in the letter:

  • * Mule Barns: Preservation and renovation. "New Stockyards experiences including destination retail and restaurants." The partners said they will preserve the Mule Barns’ historic architecture.

* Stockyards Station: Improvements "allowing us to expand upon successful operations currently serving tourists to the area."

* Livestock auctions: ”We are currently conducting due diligence on the re-establishment of on-site livestock auctions, which were a significant part of the Stockyards existence decades ago, as well as the restoration of the facilities that once hosted the auctions."

  • * Destination retail, craft breweries and spirits, farmers market, signature restaurants are "new projects under review.” One such area for those would be where the partnership’s holdings front Marine Creek, and construction there would help connect the Stockyards to the Trinity River Vision, Cavileer said. “If we could do there what Tim Love did (with the Woodshed restaurant on the Trinity River near Colonial) times 10, it’d be beautiful. But it’s going to be a process. It’s not going to happen overnight. The property is not ready to develop right now.”

* "Development of a historically-themed hotel(s) to complement the Hyatt Place and Stockyards hotel." Cavileer said, in concept, the partnership plans two hotels.

  • "Development of a residential component (with city approval) offering residents a unique opportunity to enjoy a live, work and play community in North Fort Worth.” Residential would require a rezoning by the City Council.

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