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Two from Fort Worth appointed by Gov. Abbott to university boards

Steve Hicks, a University of Texas System regent who has been a vocal opponent of regents who have criticized the system’s flagship campus in Austin, was reappointed to the board by Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday. 

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Cheesecake Factory open in Fort Worth by year-end?

By Scott Nishimura
snishimura@bizpress.net

The Cheesecake Factory should be open at downtown Fort Worth's Sundance Square by the end of the year, the company’s senior project manager for the launch told Fort Worth’s Downtown Design Review Board Thursday.

The 8,800-square-foot restaurant - being built in the former Barnes and Noble Cafe at Fourth and Commerce streets and the Ferre restaurant space next door - will have space for 231 diners and patio seating for 44, Joe Avotins said.

The design goal is to fit the restaurant into the existing space without making significant changes to the exterior, Avotins told the Design Review Board, which approved the design plan. Cheesecake Factory will remove the Ferre patio and build a new patio that’s recessed into the restaurant and will include a big awning.

“I will say this is probably the most nuanced design process I’ve been through,” Avotins joked to the Review Board members.
Sundance Square and Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. executives supported the project plan. Sundance and Cheesecake Factory announced May 30 that the restaurant was coming.

Cheesecake Factory restaurants nationally have “raised the sales of the surrounding restaurants, because of the sheer volume,” Johnny Campbell, CEO of Sundance Square, told the Review Board.

Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., said Cheesecake Factory’s reputation is one of appropriately fitting its restaurants into spaces.

“You know it’s going to come to you with a good deal of thought behind it,” he told the Review Board.

The addition of The Cheesecake Factory demonstrates how far downtown and Sundance Square has come along, Campbell said in an interview.

“If you think of Sundance Square 10 years ago, a high-volume restaurant was a $3 million restaurant,” he said.

The publicly traded Cheesecake Factory has 175 restaurants averaging $10 million per store.

Being publicly traded, “when they’re site selecting, they have to prove they can make that average,” Campbell said.

Campbell said Sundance has been talking to The Cheesecake Factory for more than a year about prospective locations. The focus turned to the former Barnes and Noble space in the late fall, he said.

Sundance Square still has 18,000 square feet of the former two-story Barnes and Noble to lease, and is promoting it to soft good retailers. Cheesecake Factory’s lease includes the second story of the bookstore that went over the cafe and Ferre.

If Sundance leases the remaining bookstore space to more than one tenant, the spaces would likely not be two stories, Campbell said.

“Our focus is on large retailers,” Campbell said “That’s what we’re working with right now.”

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