How soon will the City of Fort Worth begin work on an updated economic development plan for the Panther Island project? 

“Immediately” is Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker’s answer.  

“I think that we’ve got to huddle pretty quickly,” she said during a news conference on the project Jan. 20. “Now that we know, working in collaboration with the Army Corps, their timeline takes precedent, right?  You can’t do any development until they’re ready to tell you, this is generally speaking where you can go from. But the planning process can absolutely start now and make sure we publish those timelines in a fluid manner.”

After years of delays and frustration, on Jan. 19, Fort Worth received word it would receive a significant chunk — $403 million — of the federal funding it has long sought for the Panther Island/Central City Flood Project. That funding is key to the eventual transformation of a former industrial area north of downtown into a modern mix of residential, commercial and retail development along  the Trinity River. The redevelopment of this 800-acre area will increase Fort Worth’s tax base by bringing interest and investment back to the central city, according to the Trinity River Vision Authority, the governmental entity that coordinates the work in the Panther Island/Central City Flood Project.

While the federal, state and local dollars will be used to design and build the 1.5-mile bypass channel to reroute part of the Trinity River, private investment dollars will ultimately create the redevelopment into a high-density, mixed-use urban district north of downtown.

Now that the project is getting funding, Parker said, developers and real estate firms will be making plans for properties in the area. The city’s overall guidance in that is key, she said. 

“We need to be really good stewards of what those lands look like, too,” she said. 

Development regulations specific to the area, called form-based codes, were approved several years ago. Those likely need to be revisited, Parker said. 

Other areas of Fort Worth have been redeveloped and maintained a connection with the city’s past, she said. Panther Island should strive for that also, she said. 

“We can have progress that also really stays one from our history and our heritage to understand what it looks like to move forward at the same time,” she said. “That may seem nuanced to you, but I think those of us in Fort Worth care so deeply about the city, we want to make sure we are still reflective of who we are as a community, even as we become possibly the 10th, the ninth, largest city in the country,” she said. 

The area also could give Fort Worth some unique economic development opportunities among large cities, Parker said. 

“Waterfront property in the middle of Fort Worth, Texas, is a pretty significant opportunity,” she said. “It’s activated along the river. So, we think that this truly is a differentiating factor for our community. To be able to develop and double the size of downtown in one of the fastest growing cities in the country, I can’t think of another city that can say that, right now, with that amount of land that’s going to become available.”

How that development will take place is another part of the process the city will examine, Parker said. 

“Do you do it with a master developer, or do we need to do maybe an RFQ (request for quote) process, to just get inquiries from developers across the world that may be interested in this? I think that needs to be on the table, absolutely.” 

Panther Island project planners anticipate developers will build 10,000 housing units and 3 million square feet of commercial, retail and educational space for the area. 

Some of that early development activity is already underway. In early December, Transwestern Real Estate Services announced it was marketing 1000 N. Henderson St., also known as Half Isle, an 11.45-acre site north  of downtown Fort Worth. The parcel is located directly across from Trinity River’s Panther Island. 

Casey Tounget, Associate in Transwestern’s Fort Worth office, who is listing the property, was pleased with the timing of the funding announcement. 

“This is great news for the city of Fort Worth and incredibly timely for our market with the level of development interest,” said Tounget. “The funding has been a long time coming and this announcement should finally alleviate some of the doubt that has been expressed over its delay.”

Like Parker, Tounget said the funding gives Fort Worth a unique opportunity. 

“This huge area of development opportunity adjacent to downtown gives Fort Worth an unrivaled opportunity not found in any other major U.S. city,” he said. 

District 2 City Councilmember Carlos Flores said the federal funding and design plans will allow for infrastructure work that is key to future development. 

“We did a reset on the approach on the project manager’s aspect of the project to get that focus, to get that infrastructure in place, and then organically that development can come,” he said. 

Parker noted that plenty of developers want to plant their flag in Fort Worth. 

“You can imagine right now there are world-class developers from across the world that would love to have a buy-in at Fort Worth,” she said. “But we’re going to make sure Fort Worth stays Fort Worth.”
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at bob.francis@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Bob Francis

Bob Francis is business editor for fortworthreport.org. He has been covering business news locally and nationally for many years. He can be reached at bob.francis@fortworthreport.org

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