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Simpson sells historic Public Market building

By Scott Nishimura
snishimura@bizpress.net

Fort Worth real estate investor Bob Simpson has sold the historic Public Market building downtown to a partnership connected to the billionaire Wilks masonry and energy family of Cisco.

According to Tarrant County deed records, Simpson’s MorningStar Capital, LLC sold the Public Market property at 1400 Henderson St. in mid-June to an entity called MC Estates, LLC, whose Cisco address is the same as that of Wilks family businesses.

According to the deed record, MC Estates agreed it can’t demolish or significantly change the exterior of the Public Market building for years.

“The main structure cannot be demolished or the outside historical structure materially changed before June 12, 2084,” the deed record reads.

MorningStar and MC Estates representatives could not be reached for comment Monday.

The brothers Farris and Dan Wilks founded the family-operated Wilks Masonry in 1995 in Cisco and co-founded Frac Tech in Cisco in 2002, specializing in well stimulation as the Barnett Shale natural gas play rapidly expanded.

The Wilks brothers sold their 70 percent combined interest in Frac Tech - now named FTS International - in 2011 for $3.5 billion, according to a Forbes profile. Forbes estimated earlier this year that the brothers are each worth $1.5 billion.

The Wilkses continue to serve on the Wilks Masonry board, but turned management of the company over to their sons in 2005, the web site says.

Lately, the Wilkses have been buying property, purchasing a 62,000-acre ranch in Montana for $45 million in 2011, 300,000 acres in Montana, and 36,000 acres in Idaho, Forbes reported.

The Public Market Building was built in 1930 at the edge of downtown by John Harden of Oklahoma City, according to the fortwortharchitecture.com site.

The building served as a market for local farmers, vendors and retailers, according to the site. “Plagued with economic difficulties,” the market closed in 1941, according to the site. Fire caused significant damage in 2010.

Simpson, who has purchased and renovated several historical buildings in Fort Worth, bought the market in 2012. In December, Joy Webster, a MorningStar executive, told The Business Press that Simpson would likely take several more months before launching into renovations.

She said then that Simpson didn’t know what he planned to do with the property, but that MorningStar had received numerous ideas.

A group of Texas Tech University architecture students in 2011 examined the property and came up with several proposals, including Texas craft center and museum; multipurpose building with residential; dance studio and performance center; winery; sculptural art museum; and theater with residential.

It “can be a beacon for that part of town,” Webster said in the December interview. “With the right lighting, I think it can really attract people over there.”

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