A top attraction in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, with an estimated 3 million visitors each year, The Stockyards National Historic District recently received a facelift, and lighting manufacturer Targetti Lighting was thrilled to be a part of the massive renovation.
First opened in the late 1880s, the Fort Worth Union Stockyards became the largest livestock trading center in the Southwest before eventually winding down in 1992 and dropping the “Union” from its name. Today, the only cattle drive that occurs on the premises is done for tourists’ enjoyment twice a day.
Among the points of interest in the area’s revitalization is the new Hotel Drover, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, which boasts 40,000 square feet of unique indoor and outdoor event space. The property – which opened in 2021 – anchors the Stockyards Heritage Development Co.’s multi-million-dollar renovation of historic Mule Alley in the Fort Worth Stockyards which includes shops, restaurants, creative workplaces, and live entertainment venues.
The Hotel Drover, which reinterprets rustic Lone Star style with an elegant twist, is the most recent addition to California-based Majestic Realty’s redevelopment project in Fort Worth’s historic entertainment district. The company first partnered with Hickman Cos. of Fort Worth on the project in 2014, when real estate icon Holt Hickman was starting to craft a legacy plan for the 70 acres he owned in the Stockyards.
Wanting to do more than typical preservation efforts, Hickman’s son and daughter sought out Craig Cavileer of Majestic Realty. A public-private partnership was formed between Majestic, Stockyards Heritage Development Co., and the City of Fort Worth to take the project to the next level.
Tom Ruzika, principal of The Ruzika Company in California – which specializes in architectural, entertainment and theatrical lighting design – was tapped to lead the lighting design team for the Mule Alley renovation and Hotel Drover exterior lighting design.
The $200-million plan included the adaptive reuse of the area’s brick horse and mule barns into a mixed-use shopping and restaurant haven called Mule Alley and the construction of Hotel Drover, a 200-room luxury Western hotel. Two years after opening, Mule Alley has attracted national names, such as premium equestrian footwear and apparel brands Ariat and Lucchese, as well as eateries from western urban cuisine restaurateurs Tim Love and Marcus Paslay.
Ruzika’s lighting design team was responsible for nearly all of the exterior lighting — “basically everything from the street, Mule Alley, and any new development in the area of the Stockyards,” noted Tom Ruzika.
As its name suggests, Mule Alley was built in the heyday of the Stockyards as a barn for all sorts of livestock. In 2018, plans were announced to transform the vacant, dilapidated barns into a center for commerce and tourism. Today, Mule Alley is a vibrant street in the Stockyards and part of a $175 million project to revitalize the district. The “Alley” contains numerous retailers, entertainment venues, and the rustic-luxe Hotel Drover.
As guests walk through the streets that the cattle were once driven down, they enjoy tree-lined pathways illuminated with a combination of lighting from Targetti’s KEPLERO ZOOM. Along East Exchange Avenue and Mule Alley, every tree is lit, plus garland and lights highlight Cowtown Coliseum, the Exchange Building, Stockyards Station, and the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze.
The in-ground Targetti fixtures provide an ideal solution with a dynamic optical system that can adjust to an ever-changing landscape. With KEPLERO ZOOM, the beam optic can be changed at any time due to its revolutionary optical system with four set optics: Spot, Flood, Medium Wide Flood, and Wide Flood. The KEPLERO ZOOM projectors are recessed in the tree grates at the head of the main street in front of the old coliseum and public walkways. Careful planning by the design team ensure the proper placement of the KEPLERO fixtures allow ample room for root growth.
“We were working closely with the main developer, and he has an amazing eye for light,” Ruzika stated. “We started with two ingrades per tree (KEPLERO) in the original plan. Then we added PICO PYROS mounted with tree straps to the young trees for more accent.” When the developer asked for even more light on the trees, Ruzika’s team added the DART MEDIUM projectors to the mix to provide a larger punch of light.”
DART MEDIUM is available with two asymmetrical optics. A more open version on the horizontal axis that makes it possible to widen the pitch between fixtures and a new version defined as Narrow Asymmetric that is more comfortable and controlled.
.According to Ruzika, the design team spent 6+ hours one evening, climbing every tree to find the right placement for each fixture. “Each tree was truly handcrafted, ” Ruzika remarked.”The feature tree by the pool area started with 6 to 8 fixtures, but we ended up with around 18. Then we also added 2 to 4 lights on background trees.”
In addition, JEDI linear projectors provide accent lighting to the feature sculpture of the American Paint Horse Association, a focal point of Mule Alley. DURALED Cable lights were added to hang from building to building to create a festival atmosphere.
True to The Ruzika Company’s theatrical lighting roots, the design team wanted to make the gateway to the property a spectacular entrance. “We wanted the entrance gateway to be glowing completely,” Ruzika said.
“We were trying to create a mood — atmosphere, ” he noted. “The owner loves the soft warm look, everywhere, so that’s what we trying to achieve with our design approach.”
Lighting Design:The Ruzika Company
General Contractor:Commerce Construction
Mechanical Engineer:Blum Consulting Engineers
Photography:Ruehle Photography | Xueying Chen | The Ruzika Company