Developer launches $54 million rehab of Fort Worth Public Market, addition of 199-apartment luxe senior living tower
By Scott Nishimura
A developer broke ground Tuesday on an estimated $54 million restoration of the historic Fort Worth Public Market and addition of an adjacent 199-unit luxury senior independent living apartment tower and parking garage.
Wilks Development, of Cisco, expects completion of the project within two years, Kyle Wilks, president and chief executive, said. Wilks will include community space, restaurant and cafe open to the public, fitness center, coworking center, and leasing office in the Public Market.
The 199 apartments will range in space between 780 and 1,400 square feet and likely rent for $2.50-$3 per square foot, Wilks said in an interview Tuesday. The property will offer concierge service for residents.
“We think what is really going to have its moment of renaissance is service; we lost that during COVID,” Wilks said, likening the feel of project — called The Harden at the Public Market, after the market’s original developer — to a hospitality experience.
Critically, the firm has applied for and obtained state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits that will refund “just under 45 percent” of eligible expenses, Wilks said in the interview.
“If you’re trying to do a historic building and not taking advantage of the credits, it is going to be extremely hard,” Wilks said.
Wilks will build about 230 spaces in a parking structure, with a swimming pool and deck and six stories of residential above that. Because of historic restrictions, the buildings will be connected only by a covered walkway, Wilks said.
The apartments will range in layout from one to two and three bedrooms, with open living spaces, Wilks said. The two and three-bedroom apartments will each have two bathrooms. Each apartment will have a balcony, allowing tenants to extend their living spaces and connect to the outdoors.
“Balconies are critical,” Wilks said.
Each apartment will have stainless steel appliances. Flooring will be mostly hardwood and tile, with little carpet, Wilks said.
The concierges will offer a range of basic services such as dry cleaning dropoff and pickup, and transportation to and from medical appointments, Wilks said. Property management will also schedule outings for residents. The developer has signed Capstone Real Estate Services to manage and lease the property.
“If we create community here and people don’t just go into their apartment home and keep to themselves, they’re going to stay as long as they can,” Wilks said.
Prospective tenants must be at least 62, he said. The property’s target market is 68 and older, he said. “People are living longer,” he said. “Sixty-eight feels a lot like 58. By the time they make decisions, they’re a little more senior.”
The Public Market, developed in 1930, was a market space for farmers, retailers, and other sellers. In 1930, it had 30 shops and 145 vendor stalls, according to Historic Fort Worth, Inc. The market began declining amid the Depression.
Oilman Bob Simpson, who purchased and restored a number of buildings in Fort Worth, bought the Public Market in 2012 with plans to restore it. He sold the 2.8-acre site to Wilks in 2014.
The firm, based in Cisco in Eastland County, had purchased property from Simpson and subsequently became familiar with the Public Market, Wilks said.
“We thought about doing hospitality, but we never could get quite comfortable with walkability (desirable) for hospitality,” Wilks said.
The property, at 1400 Henderson St., is bounded by the noisy Interstate 30 to the south, Henderson to the east, and access roads to the north.
“It became apparent that active senior living was the most reasonable” path, Wilks said.
Wllks’ father and uncle started the Wilks Brothers family office in 1995. Brothers Kyle and Josh Wilks and their cousin Jess Green started Wilks Development in 2011.
The principals have participated in historic projects and senior living developments, but this is the first Wilks development project in those categories, Wilks said.
BOKA Powell Architects’ Fort Worth office handled the site plan and architecture; Kimley-Horn, the civil engineering; L2L Development Advisors partners Randy Gideon and Tom Purvis, development consulting; and Mason Joseph Co., financing. NE Construction of Lewisville is the general contractor. Wilks also credited the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, City of Fort Worth, Texas Department of Transportation, and Historic Fort Worth with help. The property, boarded up and deteriorating, has appeared on Historic Fort Worth’s Most Endangered Places list four times.
“Public Market is not just a building, but a symbol of what we can achieve when we work together,” Wilks said in remarks before the ground-breaking.