Concept for convention center

The city’s partner in developing a new convention center and hotel on the University of North Texas campus was in town Feb. 18, primarily to meet with a group at UNT on designing the project.

If you recall from our earlier stories, it is the city’s intent, along with the developer, O’Reilly Hospitality Management, to design the project to 35 percent and then go out for bids to see whether both can afford it. (The city has been estimating $25 million for the 100,000-square-foot convention center and OHM has been estimating $60 million for the 300-room, full-service hotel.)

Tim O’Reilly and the architect made a brief presentation to the city council when they were in town that included flashing these conceptual drawings up on the screen for a few minutes during the council’s work session.

Conceptual drawing of city convention center and hotel

The council’s reaction was muted, to say the least. Both council members and the mayor said they understood that university officials were reviewing the design, and that it had to fit into the university campus (in 75 years, the building becomes university property), but they were looking for something bold.

They wondered aloud how it would fit, at 11 stories tall, between two other distinctive pieces of architecture: Apogee Stadium and the Murchison Performing Arts Center.

“This is the gateway to our city,” Mayor Mark Burroughs said.

It wouldn’t be the first tall structure in the city, of course. The towers at Texas Woman’s University and Kerr Hall, at UNT, are functional, as is the bank building downtown. Nothing there to win architectural awards or to catalog them among the great buildings of Texas, or even North Texas.

It doesn’t appear that the developer and his architect have teed up the convention center and hotel to be anything different than the other tall buildings in town.

When I was in Colorado last week, I traveled by a similar project in Loveland, shot a photo and shared it on Twitter:

Embassy Suites Loveland Hotel, Spa and Conference Center

Fellow staff writer Jenna Duncan, who covers the universities and business community, reached out to UNT officials to find out whether there was more to know about the design decisions and got this answer from Buddy Price:

It is very early in the design process and the exterior materials and appearance will be developed through the design process.  The renderings of the hotel/convention center presented to the city council on Feb. 18 are early studies; they generally indicate the scale and scope of the development. 

UNT, the city and O’Reilly all are working together on the project and we will build a facility we all can be proud of and that is a significant and appropriate addition to the overall campus and community. UNT will be a very active partner in this project and the development of its design.

Jenna tells me she is still hopeful that she will be able to connect with those at UNT who are involved in the process. We’ll report more when we’ve got it.

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