When Old is New: Fort Worth's Historic and Innovative Sinclair Hotel
By John Tess President & CEO, Heritage Consulting Group | April 26, 2020
Among some, there is a perception that old, vintage and historic hotels (and such buildings adapted to boutique hotels) have a slot in the marketplace, but fundamentally miss the key touchstones of the hotel marketplace. The advantages of these older buildings is appreciated: they typically have great central locations, and they represent an "authentic" experience connecting with the both the urban architectural fabric and the unique heritage of the destination.
But all too often, there is a perception that location and authenticity comes at a price in the quality of the guest experience and in the cost of hotel operations. This perception is particularly true when the hotel development project is tied to federal and state historic tax credits, which are sometimes considered roadblocks to innovation.
Located on Main Street in downtown Fort Worth, the Sinclair Building is a Mayan-influenced Art Deco 107,000 square foot office tower built in 1930. The 16-story stepped tower was designed by noted Fort Worth architect Wiley Gulick Clarkson for Texas oilman Richard Otto Dulaney at the end of a decade when Fort Worth's population grew by 50% to 163,000 as the city established itself as a regional oil center.
Originally called the Dulaney Building, it was renamed the Sinclair when the Sinclair Oil Company pre-leased most of the office building as its headquarters. At the time of completion, the Sinclair Building was considered one of the most technologically modern buildings in the city.
In 2013, Fort Worth real estate developer Farukh Aslam purchased the Sinclair Building from Sinclair Building Partners, which had acquired the office building in 2006. Aslam began the process adapting the office building into a 164-room boutique hotel under the Marriott Autograph brand. That brand had been launched in January, 2010 intent on creating a "collection" of independent, individual hotels keyed to each hotel owner's vision. Conceptually, the Autograph brand is to be understood as "hand-crafted."
Aslam's vision for this historic building was to create a new kind of hotel: a smart digitally transformed property that would use the latest advances in digital smart building technology, building/in-room sensors, and Internet of Things (IOT) gateways and dashboards. A system of interconnected computing devices, machines, and objects, provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and data transferability over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction, the IOT serves to not only run the property more efficiently, but also deliver actionable business insights that help the hotel serve guests in a more personalized way. As important, the smart systems that Aslam sought to install promised to reduce energy consumption by 35%, both saving money and reducing the property's carbon footprint.