XTO Departure: Six years later
XTO was founded as the Cross Timbers Oil Company in Fort Worth by Bob R. Simpson, Steve Palko, Jon Brumley in 1986. Fueled in part by the shale drilling boom, the company grew quickly, as did the need for office space for XTO's employees. Instead of building new space, XTO purchased many historic downtown properties, meticulously restoring them to their former glory. In 2012, XTO was purchased by The Woodlands-based oil and gas giant ExxonMobil. By the time of Exxon's acquisition, XTO had 1,600 employees in Downtown Fort Worth and owned millions of square feet of Downtown office space.
The departure of XTO lead to a significant void in the heart of downtown, but that has slowly filled over the years.
The Montgomery Ward/Tindall Storage Building was one of the smaller buildings in the XTO campus, standing at just five stories. Located adjacent to the train tracks, the building was perfectly suited as a rail-based warehouse when it opened around 1911. XTO sold the to Trinity Metro, where it's location near the Fort Worth Central Station again came in handy and it was converted into Trinity Metro's HQ and main office.
Cowtown Place is unique as the only building built by XTO, but it also took the place of the only building demolished by XTO. The site was once the home of Landmark Tower, a 30-story mid-century office skyscraper. Landmark Tower had numerous issues that culminated when the building was damaged by the March 28, 2000 tornado that hit downtown. The building was found unsuitable for restoration and torn down in 2006. In 2015, XTO announced plans to build an 800-car parking garage with ground-floor retail on the full block. Dubbed Cowtown Place, the garage opened in 2017. The ground floor is currently offices.
A full block containing the Petroleum Building, the Houston Street Mall Garage and a small surface parking lot were purchased by Sundance Square in 2018. Sundance opened the garage to the public and began to use some of the retail and space for offices. No announcements have been made regarding the future of what will occupy the dual-level retail space or the historic Petroleum Building.
714 Main Street opened in 1921 as the tallest skyscraper in Texas and home to the Farmers & Mechanics Bank. The building was extensively restored under Bob Simpson's tenure at XTO, undoing alterations made in the mid-century. After XTO left, the building was sold and converted into a 226-room hotel, the Kimpton Harper. The new hotel includes a top-floor bar, with the il Modo Italian restaurant opening at street level.
The 20-story W.T. Waggoner Building opened in 1920. The building, along with the adjacent parking lot, was purchased from XTO by Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi, who announced plans for the building to host the second Sandman Hotel in Texas. The 245-room hotel opened earlier this year. The Sandman's lobby was never significantly altered from its original state and has been carefully preserved throughout the building's many uses. A sushi restaurant, Musume, is anticipated to open soon on the ground floor.
The Bob R. Simpson building, built in 1910 for the First National Bank of Fort Worth, was known as the Baker Building when it opened. The building was one of the oldest properties in the XTO portfolio and was also the last building that XTO departed. In March 2022 the building was purchased by Irving-based Icon Lodging, a hotel developer. As of writing, no formal announcements for the future have been made and the building remains unoccupied.
XTO's focus wasn't only on Downtown. The Swift & Co. Office Building at the far East end of the Fort Worth Stockyards has had many occupants since opening in 1902. Built as the offices for the adjacent meat packing plants, many long-time Fort Worth residents remember the building as a home of a Spaghetti Warehouse restaraunt. XTO restored the building in 2006. Today, the building is again offices for several companies.
Not all the XTO properties were renovations. One of XTO's surface parking lots, an L-shaped lot at 9th and Commerce streets, was purchased by Nashville-based Southern Land Company, who announced plans for the first major apartment tower in Fort Worth history. The project, known as Deco 969, began construction in the fall of 2021 and is expected to open mid-2023. The tower, which recently topped out, stands 27 stories tall and will contain 300 apartment homes.
While XTO's departure was a seismic shift in the Fort Worth economy, after five years the uses of the buildings have adapted. In some ways, the downturn in office space was perfectly timed, just before the office crash caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In all, nearly 450 new hotel rooms and 300 new homes now occupy the former historic buildings and spaces XTO once used. Without XTO's meticulous care, these buildings might never have been able to have a new life.
XTO's former CEO and Chairman Bob Simpson founded another company, TXO, in 2012. Earlier this year, TXO went public with a $100 million IPO. And just like XTO, TXO is headquartered in downtown Fort Worth in a historic building.
Maybe history really does repeat.