Sunday, January 31, 2010

Restaurants find Tarrant County to be a hot market


While staff put finishing touches on his new restaurant, Cat City Grill, Vance Martin weighed the relative merits of opening 24 hours after Valentine’s Day.

In this grim economic climate, what’s remarkable is that Martin, owner-chef of Lili’s Bistro just down the street on Fort Worth’s Magnolia Avenue, is expanding his business horizons at all.

And he’s not alone.

Another Magnolia restaurant, Scampi’s, is enlarging its serving area and adding a bar. And new to the Tarrant market are the Cowtown Diner downtown and Wildwood Grill in Southlake, not to mention out-of-town ventures like Cooper’s barbecue, from Llano, opening in the Stockyards. From Austin comes Mandola’s, moving into Arlington, and El Arroyo, in southwest Fort Worth. Add to that Dallas concepts expanding to Fort Worth, like Tillman’s Roadhouse near West Seventh Street.

BJ’s, a California chain featuring beer from Houston’s Saint Arnold microbrewery, added area restaurants at North East Mall in November and yet another at Alliance Town Center.

Houlihan’s, a more refined version of the 1970s chain, is back with geographically wide-ranging dishes in a casual-dining restaurant at Arlington Highlands.

Closings too

But for all the openings, the economy also claimed victims in Dallas-Fort Worth’s ever-more-competitive environment, which boasts a full-service restaurant for every 299 households.

Luby’s, the iconic Texas chain, closed four unprofitable cafeterias around Tarrant County last fall, while in December, Dixie House Cafe pulled out of its downtown location previously occupied by Bennigan’s, which had abandoned all its company-owned stores in summer 2008. Fuego’s was a summer flame-out.

In recent weeks, Ocean Rock, Aventino’s and Ovation served their last meals, unless someone takes over the moribund operations and resurrects the names.

"As an undercapitalized independent we were unprepared for a wobble, unable to withstand the [economic] sting," Mike Musgrove told the Star-Telegram after shutting down Ovation on the west side after 3  1/2 years. He hopes to find a buyer who can reopen it.

Derrick Paez of Aventino’s told a similar tale.

"Between my father and myself we ran out of capital," Paez said of a difficult year. "We made it happen for 11 months and didn’t think we would be closing down over the Christmas break. My daughter’s cancer had a relapse, and we just had enough."

His family planned to make good on about $500 worth of gift cards sold before the closing, said Paez, who acknowledged that the restaurant expansion and slick, New York-inspired makeover he orchestrated two years ago were out of step with local tastes.

"My vision didn’t match up with the marketplace," he said.

In downtown Fort Worth, restaurant receipts dropped 9.8 during the second quarter of 2009, the latest figures available, according to Downtown Fort Worth Inc., citing the Texas comptroller of public accounts.

Next page
Looking for comments?

Ex-Hicks partner sues over Rangers property sale

FORT WORTH, Texas — Dallas businessman Tom Hicks is being sued by a former development partner as the Texas Rangers owner seeks to sell the team and some land.

The dispute involves 45 acres near Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, land that Steiner & Associates of Columbus, Ohio, claims it has the right to develop.

A planned shopping, hotel and entertainment district known as Glorypark never materialized.

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 21 in Fort Worth, two days before Hicks announced a deal to sell the Rangers.

Hicks, who has informed Major League Baseball and the partnership group buying the Rangers about the legal action, says the lawsuit has no merit.

Steiner seeks $14.5 million, plus its stake in Glorypark. Steiner spokesman Jason Stanford says Hicks "does not have the right to sell the land without dissolving the partnership."


Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram,

Barnett Shale air study to be released today

10:51 AM CST on Wednesday, January 27, 2010
By JEFF MOSIER / The Dallas Morning News

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is expected to release its report on Barnett Shale air emissions at 1 p.m. today.

Earlier this month, the commission announced that no "potentially dangerous" emissions were found in the air at 126 natural gas production sites in Fort Worth.

Agency workers collected samples in mid-December and found no release of volatile organic compounds at most sites. At other locations, the releases were below levels causing short- or long-term harm to health, TCEQ officials said in a written statement.

Agency officials briefed the Fort Worth City Council on the testing and are expected to release results of a larger Barnett Shale air-testing program today.

Fort Worth City Council members requested testing in early December after other test results in more rural areas were released. Some of those tests found high levels of benzene and other toxic chemicals near gas production facilities.

Some gas industry officials have previously said they didn't expect to see high levels of emissions at facilities in Fort Worth. That could be due partly to differences in the composition of the gas in various parts of the Barnett Shale, an underground gas-producing formation in North Texas.

The air around the Fort Worth testing sites was checked for 22 volatile organic compounds, including benzene. The areas tested were gas drilling sites as well as disposal and compressor facilities.

Fort Worth district suspends contract after crash


Associated Press

A week after a plane crash killed a teenager and a flight instructor, the Fort Worth public school district has suspended its contract with the company that provided aviation training to high school students.

Classes in aircraft engine maintenance and repair will continue, district spokesman Clint Bond said. However, they won't be conducted by CRP Future Pilots until the program is reviewed.

Eric Schultz, a 15-year-old sophomore at Dunbar High, and Gregory Green, 36, were killed Jan. 23 in the crash of a a two-seat, single-engine light-sport aircraft in Ellis County. Federal aviation officials are investigating.

Bond said flight instruction was not part of CRP's contract. CRP staffers told administrators they had contacted parents about the flying lessons, Bond said.

The Schultz family and parents of other students have spoken out in support of continuing the aviation program and flight school.


On the Net: Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Fort Worth Real Estate

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Give me land! Multicultural Western museum Fort Worth land

(Fort Worth) - The National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum has all the land it needs for its new museum on the south side of Berry Street, a few blocks east of the Martin Luther King Freeway in Fort Worth.

The group bought 2.6 acres at 3534 S. Berry St. from Raymond Ward of Dallas. That brought its holdings to nine acres.

Jim and Gloria Austin are co-founders of the museum. Jim Austin said the organization at midyear will begin a $6 million capital campaign to renovate a vacant, 31,000-sf grocery store at 3520 E. Berry St. for the museum.

The museum, now nine years old, occupies about 5,600 sf at 3400 Mount Vernon Ave. in east Fort Worth. The group anticipates opening the new location in January 2013.

Remodeled armory will house Fort Worth Police/Gang Unit

(Fort Worth) - Innovative Developers Inc. in Fort Worth is remodeling the Armory Building at 1289 S. Hemphill St.

The Fort Worth Police Department’s Neighborhood Policing District 2 and Gang Unit will use 18,000 sf of the 27,000-sf building, once home to Niver Western Wear.

The finish-out will provide police with office and conference space, locker rooms and a workout facility. The work is expected to be completed by April 1.

[Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

Dirt flies on $3.47 million Lake Worth city facility

(Lake Worth) - Lake Worth officials broke ground on the city’s new multipurpose complex and animal services facility at 7005 Charbonneau Dr. — the new home of the Lake Worth Public Library and the Lake Worth Senior Center. The 14,500-sf center will include facilities to accommodate community or municipal events and will be available for public use.

The $3.47 million facilities, which are estimated to take 270 days to complete, are being funded by a bond issue approved in September 2008.

The center will double the size of the city’s library and the senior center as well as add a new animal services facility, located at 7209 Comanche Tr., which will be constructed two blocks from the multipurpose center.

Hundreds Line Up To See Joel Osteen In Waxahachie

He's a leading pastor and best-selling author many times over and Monday evening Joel Osteen visited hundreds of followers in Waxahachie. Though he's one of the most influential people in America and runs the largest church in the country, at his stop at the Hastings Book Store he was very down to earth.

Osteen arrived to spread a message of encouragement, in another bestselling book. The latest publishing is a delight to followers like Barry Wolverton, who was born legally blind. "Of course, I've got a hard time seeing. I was born that way, so I've got all mine [books] on audio," he explained. "I've got just about everything that he's [Osteen] put out; including the brand new one that he put out recently."

From the dozens who stood in line at the book store, to the more than 40,000 followers at Lakewood Church in Houston, Osteen is touching lives.

Charlene Smith says Osteen's message has helped her many times. "He's very inspirational, and it seems like he's talking directly to me." Wolverton says he has been strengthened by the words of the senior pastor. "I went through a critical time at work a couple years ago, and his message has helped pull me through."

Osteen says he and his family are also encouraged when others succeed through the word. "Be inspired, to have their faith challenged and just somebody to be encouraged to dream bigger, believe bigger, to know that no matter where they are they can rise higher," was the message Osteen had.

In his newest work, "It's Your Time", Osteen gives accounts of personal triumph. He and his wife of 22 years, Victoria, took on his father, John Osteen's, ministry in 1999. The couple built their mega church in 2005 and hold major evangelical events throughout the world.

Pastor Osteen says the message is faith-based inspiration. "It's about believing trusting and expecting God's goodness."

Monday Osteen talked with us before greeting followers, taking pictures, and signing copies of his new book.

The author and pastor said his new book is different because different times call for different writing measures. "My first couple of books were more about principle, how to improve your life, how to reach your potential. But it seems like there was so much negativity in the world with the economy and different things happening... I wanted to write a book to just lift people's spirits, and to get them expecting God's goodness… even in a down time."

Even teenagers showed up to see Osteen in Waxahachie. "I have his bible carrier right here, because he's taught me so much about being myself, and everything is possible," 14-year-old Micah Lett said with excitement.

Micah's brother, James, also stood in line, with books in hand, to meet Osteen. "I just now started being a youth leader at church so I can go to church and let them know I actually met and talked to Joel Osteen."

Pastor Osteen says his hope is that his message will help improve the lives, of all who read it. "I would hope that they go away with knowing they can accomplish their God-given dreams, their goals, that they can overcome obstacles. That God is in control of their life. That even when it doesn't seem like things are going their way that they come back to a place of trust and know that God has a plan."

While in Waxahachie Osteen signed about 420 copies of his latest best seller; last week in New York he signed about 1,000 copies.


FW Seminary Acquires Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

Theological Seminary is to unveil three newly acquired biblical Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

The more than 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1940s in caves in Israel overlooking the Dead Sea. The scrolls include the earliest known version of portions of the Hebrew Bible. They have shed light on Judaism and the beginnings of Christianity.

Southwestern spokesman Thomas White said the fragments acquired Tuesday include Scriptures from the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Daniel.

When asked how Southwestern was able to get the fragments, President Paige Patterson said "I can only say that God must have smiled on us."

"Any piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls is significant because it shows us what the state of the Hebrew text of the Bible was 2,000 years ago, which gives us a way to measure whether or not they've been faithfully transmitted over the last 2,000 years," Weston Fields, executive director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation, said in a statement.

"And what they do tell us is that there has been very little change," Fields says. "They show how faithfully the Bible has been transmitted."

"It makes us the center for Dead Sea Scroll research" says Patterson.

Southwestern is one of three U.S. institutions to own scroll fragments and the only evangelical seminary in the nation to have fragments with biblical text, White said. The University of Chicago and Azusa Pacific University in California also have pieces of the scroll.

"If this thing is put together nicely, a display is made, you will find thousands of people flocking to Texas not just to see the Super Bowl, but to see the Dead Sea Scrolls" says scroll expert Peter Flint.

Southwestern purchased its fragments from a private collector for an undisclosed amount and is in negotiation for future pieces.

"We have a lot of hidden treasures that very few people know about here in Fort Worth," White said, noting that the seminary has other ancient documents, including cuneiform tablets.

The scroll fragments will be displayed in a campus library that is part of a 3,500-seat chapel Southwestern is building.


Powerball Lottery Comes To Texas January 31st

The Powerball and Mega Millions nationwide lottery games will launch their partnership this weekend. The largest lottery agreement in U.S. history creates the largest market ever for jackpot games.

On January 31st, the Texas Lottery will start selling Powerball tickets across the state.

Players here in the Lone Star State will have their first chance to win in the Powerball drawing on Wednesday, February 3.

Powerball joins the already-popular Mega Millions game in Texas. "We are excited to add Powerball to our mix of games, and we welcome the new states to Mega Millions," Texas Lottery Commission Deputy Executive Director Gary Grief said in a press release. "As the number of people playing both games increases, we could see jackpots rising higher and faster than ever before."

To mark the introduction of Powerball to Texas, the Texas Lottery is planning special Customer Appreciation Days at stores throughout the state during February.

Check your lottery results anytime at


Storm Moves Through North Texas

From Weather Blog

As a winter storm moves across North Texas and temperatures drop overnight, will report the latest developments.

7:41p: The National Weather Service in Fort Worth has issued flood warnings for:
The East Fork of the Trinity River at McKinney in Collin County from late Thursday to late Friday night, or until the warning is canceled

Chambers Creek near Rice in Navarro County from Saturday morning until Sunday evening, or until the warning is canceled

The South Fork of the Sabine River near Quinlan in Hunt and Rockwall counties from late Thursday to late Friday night, or until the warning is canceled

- National Weather Service
6:54p: A powerful storm dumped snow, sleet and freezing rain on Oklahoma and the southern Plains Thursday, disrupting power to thousands of Oklahoma homes and businesses, canceling flights at the state's largest airports and shutting down major highways. Ice accumulations of more than one-half inch and high winds snapped electrical lines across Oklahoma, knocking out electrical power to about 57,000 homes and businesses. It could take five days to restore service to all customers.

- Associated Press
6:03p: Forestburg ISD has delayed Friday's opening until 10 a.m.

- WFAA-TV Staff
6:01p: Witnesses at the Stephenville Nursing Home said a 50-foot chunk of corrugated metal roofing that was picked up by the storm Thursday afternoon and then slammed down on top of the facility's kitchen. "All of a sudden there was this terrible noise," said one witness, who added that the chunks of insulation material flying through the air made it look like it was snowing. That prompted an evacuation of the building's 24 residents to a sister facility in Dublin, about 12 miles away. No one was hurt.

- Chris Hawes in Stephenville
6:00p: This powerful storm is hitting hard in Oklahoma, where many highways have already been shut down. Trees are falling across roads in the Oklahoma City area, where ice is accumulating. We're seeing nothing but rain in North Texas -- a lot of rain. One to two inches of rain has fallen as of 6 p.m. and more rain is on the way, with up to two additional inches in the forecast. We're still looking at an all-rain event in Dallas-Fort Worth and surrounding counties for the morning rush hour on Friday, but as the system moves through North Texas and temperatures drop, we still could see some very light freezing rain, freezing drizzle and a flake or two of snow by noon in the immediate Dallas Fort-Worth area. A winter weather advisory is in effect from midnight through noon Friday for counties to the north and west of the metro area.

- Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
5:38p: Gov. Rick Perry has activated Texas military forces to assist local officials with winter storm-related issues.

- WFAA-TV Staff
5:18p: There are no severe storms in North Texas at this time, but there is still a chance of some severe weather with a squall line that is moving southeast of Dallas packing wind up to 50 mph along with heavy rain.

News 8 WeatherBug rainfall totals have already reached 1.45 inches at Wayside Middle School in Fort Worth and 1.41 inches at Forte Junior High in Azle. Heavy snow of up to 1.5 feet has already fallen in the Texas Panhandle. Icy conditions are reported across much of Oklahoma.

Overnight, temperatures in Dallas, Tarrant, Denton and Collin counties are forecast remain above freezing, and morning rush hour drivers should encounter only rain. But by 9 a.m. Friday most of Denton County and a good chunk of Tarrant County will be receiving a wintry mix of freezing rain and sleet; some bridges and overpasses could present problems.

By the noon hour, I expect very, very light freezing rain or drizzle, but the storm system will be moving out of the area during the afternoon, and we should be dried out by 6 p.m.
If there is any ice at all in Dallas-Fort Worth, it will be extremely light, with higher amounts the farther northwest you go.

- Chief Meteorologist Pete Delkus
5:05p: North Central Texas College locations in Bowie and Graham have canceled all classes for Thursday night because of the winter storm.

- WFAA-TV Staff
5:03p: The administrator at Stephenville Nursing Home confirms that no patients were hurt during the storm that damaged a 50-foot swath of the building's roof. An evacuation plan moved 24 patients by bus to a sister facility. Officials said water damage and roof damage will be repaired as soon as possible, and they are hoping to be back in business early next week. Stephenville residents are urged to switch on their porch lights to let utility workers know which homes and businesses have power.

- Troy Bush and Chris Hawes in Stephenville
4:55p: The City of Fort Worth has issued a Winter Weather Advisory, anticipating that the potential for freezing temperatures combined with precipitation on Thursday night and Friday morning "could cause some problems."

- WFAA-TV Staff
4:30p: There were no injuries reported after wind clocked up to 66 mph blew away a section of the roof at the Stephenville Nursing Home, 2311 West Washington Street. A city official said 24 patients have been evacuated to another facility. A portion of a roof at Tarleton State University in Stephenville was also damaged in the storm, with some flooding and tree damage reported.
- HD Chopper 8 pilot Troy Bush over Stephenville

Upgrade ahead for Fort Worth passenger rail line

WASHINGTON – President Obama and Vice President Biden announced $8 billion in grants today to develop high-speed intercity passenger rail service, including $4 million for Fort Worth for signal improvements to increase the speed of Amtrak's Texas Eagle.

The White House released an outline of the grants in advance of today’s announcement which noted that the Texas Eagle, the daily Chicago to San Antonio line which serves Fort Worth, "will increase operating speed" and "improve on-time performance" between Fort Worth and Austin.

At an event in Florida, Obama and Biden announced the awards that will go toward developing or laying the groundwork for 13 new, large-scale high-speed rail corridors across the country.

Florida will get $1.25 billion for a new high-speed rail corridor between Tampa Bay and Orlando that will later connect to Miami and other communities in central and south Florida.

Source: Fort Worth Star Telegram

Thursday, January 07, 2010

North Texans hunker down for an even colder night Thursday

North Texans on Thursday braved a powerful arctic air mass that pummeled temperatures into the 20s, unleashed single-digit wind-chill values and forced a slippery commute in some locations.

The temperature dropped to 22 degrees with a wind chill of 8 early Thursday morning. By 2:30 p.m. the mercury had climbed to 28 degrees, but the wind chill made it feel like 11.

People got on with their lives, but even colder, more dangerous conditions faced homeless people Thursday night.

Many hunkered down in shelters, makeshift tents and around campfires, anticipating nighttime temperatures expected to bottom out in the low teens, with wind-chill values at zero.

Full Story on Fort Worth Star Telegram