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City of Fort Worth prepares to sell Central Library for $18 million to national investment firm

Fort Worth Central Library
Cristian ArguetaSoto
/
Fort Worth Report
The Fort Worth Central Library will be sold to Dart Interests LLC after city council approval next week.

After Tuesday, Fort Worth’s Central Library building will no longer rest in city hands, if a proposed sale goes through.

City Council members are preparing to approve the sale of the building to Dart Interests LLC, a national real estate investment and development firm, for $18 million. The firm, which describes itself as a “long-term developer and investor,” owns properties in several states, including Florida, South Carolina, New York, California and Texas.

The city first announced its plans to sell the Central Library building in February, to the dismay of many residents who worried about the loss of a downtown library location. Those fears are unfounded, city officials said, because regardless of the building’s sale the library will continue to offer services in the area.

“Our leadership here in the libraries has had initial conversations with different stakeholder groups and residential groups about what they think needs might be for a future location,” said Theresa Davis, library communications director. “And those will continue because we have not selected a site for our relocation yet.”

The plan is to relocate the staff and materials currently housed in the Central Library and establish a much smaller presence downtown, library director Manya Shorr said in a recent interview. There will not be any layoffs of staff associated with the closure of the library.

“We are a city that is growing out,” Shorr said. “We’re not a city that’s growing up. Where I need more locations is where people are living. And I don’t have those. So if I didn’t have this gigantic central library, I could serve more people across the city.”

The city contracted with Jones Lang Lasalle Brokerage to find a buyer. When listing the library property for offers, the city required prospective buyers to develop it as a mixed-use project, including office space and residential space, as well as a lease space that the city will have the option to purchase for a new, smaller library. The minimum capital investment required of buyers was $100 million.

“It will be challenging and difficult for JLL to evaluate and establish a value on the Fort Worth Public Central Library located at 500 W. Third St.,” said Chris Copeland, executive vice president at Fort Worth-based Southland Property Tax Consultants Inc. in a statement to the Fort Worth Report in March. “This is indeed a special-purpose property and any future user will require significant renovation/improvement costs.”

The city received multiple offers, according to a report prepared by city staff for council. Dart’s offer of $18 million was the highest cash offer, and the firm agreed to a lease-back with the city.

Under the leaseback agreement, the city will be able to lease space within the building for a single-year term for a total cost of $1.14 million (including property taxes, insurance and operating expenses), with the potential to extend the agreement for another year after that with a higher base rent.

“We are not intending on maintaining the central library services for another full year,” Davis said. “We intend to probably to close the doors at 500 West Third Street, this coming summer 2023.”

The lease-back will be paid for through the sale of the library property, according to the city report.

“We’re looking at maintaining services from now until the end of May so you can still check out all your materials, the passport office will still be open,” Davis said. “You can come see any of the exhibits we have. But programming is going to start scaling back in the spring.”

Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at emily.wolf@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter.

Emily Wolf is a local government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She grew up in Round Rock, Texas, and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in investigative journalism. Reach her at emily.wolf@fortworthreport.org for more stories by Emily Wolf click here.