Dallas and Fort Worth: New Properties and Rich Culture Draw Groups

Dallas downtown

EAT - Trinity Groves
This 15-acre space in West Dallas includes restaurants, shops, and galleries built in former industrial warehouses. Developed around a Restaurant Concept Incubator program, Trinity Groves invites prospective restaurateurs to submit their cuisine and design ideas. Those that make the cut open up shop, allowing meetings groups to sample some of the most innovative dining options available (not surprisingly, this is a popular spot for dine-arounds).

STAY - The Joule Hotel
Having recently completed a significant expansion, this property debuted new guest rooms, suites, and multi-story penthouses, as well as 14,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a spa by ESPA, a library from arts-book publisher Taschen, retail stores, and an artisanal coffee shop.

PLAY - West Village
Dozens of stores, restaurants, and entertainment sites fill this popular gathering spot in Dallas' Uptown neighborhood. This includes the upscale Magnolia Theatre & Bar, with five screens and spaces available for groups.

A booming local economy and heavy investment in tourism and infrastructure is making Texas a highly attractive destination for meeting groups these days. Thanks to the recent lifting of the traffic-limiting Wright Amendment, more flights will be available into the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, making these meeting spots hotter than ever.

With $20 billion in new developments and enhancements in transportation, Dallas today has more to offer to meeting groups, with plenty of surprises thrown in.

"Dallas is a city built by passionate, visionary leaders who believe that all things are possible with a vibrant economy," says Frank J. Librio, vice president of the communications and marketing division for the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"All things" includes a raft of new developments; the largest urban arts district in the country (spanning 20 blocks); ever-expanding shopping, dining, and entertainment options; and 75,000 hotel rooms. No wonder the city just landed on the seventh spot of Cvent's Top 50 Meeting Destinations.

The Renaissance Dallas recently completed a substantial renovation that increased and expanded its meeting capabilities -- including 50,000 square feet of upscale meeting space, a 16,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, and 17 meeting rooms. The changes were made in part to qualify for LEED Silver status, and include updated technology such as remote-controlled screens and A/V system.

Dallas will also soon welcome a number of new properties, including the uptown Dream Dallas boutique property, offering 128 rooms, a lofted pool deck, and a 14,000-square-foot lounge with killer views of the Dallas skyline. The 32-story 1600 Pacific tower is currently undergoing a $70-million renovation and will be turned into a mixed-use condominium complex and hotel (with 171 rooms) with an outdoor recreation center.  

That's not the only transformation happening to a major city building. Downtown Dallas' historic Tower Petroleum is in the process of becoming a 150-room, $40-million boutique hotel.

As for dining, Dallas has recently added some new hotspots to the 4,000 restaurants it already boasts. San Salvaje offers a fusion of Mexican, Central American, and Caribbean cuisine ideal for groups looking for a casual, high-energy atmosphere. Local chef John Tesar has recently unveiled Knife, his take on the classic steakhouse, inside The Highland Dallas (formerly the Hotel Palomar).

But beyond the new meetings-friendly venues and developments, Dallas' rich culture remains one of its biggest selling points.

"It has become a melting pot of cultures, religions, and lifestyles," says Librio.

Fort Worth Convention Center (250,000 sf of exhibit space); Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas (1 million sf of exhibit space)

Dallas: 13 percent
Fort Worth: 15 percent

Fort Worth
Just 30 miles west of Dallas, the city of Fort Worth has seen major development as well -- and the meetings industry is taking notice.

"You can walk more than 35 continuous blocks of entertainment, hotels, restaurants, and more," says Bob Jameson, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau. "With our new central plaza -- a great new venue for events and relaxing -- our downtown was named No. 1 in the nation. With this and more development planned, we were honored that HelmsBriscoe named our organization Destination Partner of the Year."

The Fort Worth Convention Center is poised to add a 50,000-square-foot ballroom and more exhibit space. Groups looking for an outdoor experience can visit the newly developed 55,000-square-foot Sundance Square Plaza, or host an event on Texas' only waterfront stage at the Panther Island Pavilion. Entertainment complex Casino Beach is undergoing a $117-million redevelopment.

The Texas Society of Association Executives held its annual conference in Fort Worth this past September. "Our sales and services team wowed the 500 attendees with their hospitality, excursions to attractions across the city, and a noteworthy opening night party in the Sundance Square Plaza," explains Jameson. "With bar stations serving local whiskey and a cowboy 'statue' to top it off, it was truly an enchanted evening."

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This article appears in the November 2014 issue of Successful Meetings.