Fort Worth’s new City Hall will come with a bigger price tag than anticipated.
“It is never, ever easy to come to this table and say, ‘Oh, and we’re going to recommend that we need more money for this vision,’” City Manager David Cooke told City Council members during a work session Feb. 7.
“But we’re at that point.”
The project will need $50 million more in funding to reach its finale, city staff announced at the meeting, for a final estimated cost of $230.5 million. Five main factors are pushing the cost increase, Tanyan Farley, who is managing the project for Athenian Group, said: federal floodway requirements, added scope, added staff, maintenance and inflation.
City officials initially anticipated the new City Hall would open for business late this year, but that timeline was pushed back into 2024 after a delay in the permitting process stalled construction.
Project managers had to ask for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with development, after the Tarrant Regional Water District informed Athenian Group and the city that the construction site is sitting on a federal floodway.
This designation means the city had to make multiple changes to its plans for the space in order to meet federal requirements for the land, including waterproofing, structural and grade changes. Farley said they anticipate a $7-8 million increase in construction costs because of the floodway requirements.
“The federal floodway had some pretty significant impacts,” he said. “Really all across the council chambers, the parking garage and the site itself.”
While working on the building, the contractors also discovered multiple existing elements that were either due for maintenance or nearing the end of their usability, Farley said. One such example is the lights in the building — some lighting control systems are malfunctioning, resulting in the lights staying on at all times. Those will need to be replaced, as will some elevator parts.
Conducting that maintenance and replacement carries a $12 million price tag — and inflation costs are expected to tack on another $13 million to the project as a whole.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention we are facing some significant inflation, aggregate construction inflation in this type of industry, at about 30%,” Farley said.
New staff moving into the building have also increased costs, Farley said. When the project was initially designed, the city anticipated moving in 900 employees. Now, that number will be closer to 1,600. Buildings plans will have to be updated to include new room construction for those additional employees and departments.
Updates and additional plans for the lobby, council chambers, tower and 10th floor will add up to $9.3 million in additional costs. Despite the large increase in costs, Cooke stressed that the project was a multi-decade investment into the city’s future,
“I’ll remind everyone of the people that moved into this building about 20 or so years ago, that this was the coolest place at that point in time,” Cooke said. “That’s part of this conversation. This is not a five-year or 10-year decision. This is a 50-year decision.”
Some of the costs can be offset through the sale of city buildings that are being vacated, Farley said, including the Central Library. In all, they anticipate a total sale value of $19.4 million for nine properties.
Which properties are being sold?
- 319 W. 10th St. (Parking garage)
- 917 Taylor St. (Surface parking)
- 910 Monroe St. (Surface parking)
- 908 Monroe St. (City Hall Annex)
- 900 Monroe St. (Gordon Swift)
- 401 W. 13th St. (PMD Annex)
- 711 W. 13th St. (Surface lot)
- 1607 New York Ave. (Fellowship Corner)
- 2410 Prospect Ave. (Old Fire Station 12)
In addition, Cooke said, there is a leftover $9.45 million from last year’s budget cycle that can be put toward capital improvements, like the new City Hall. With the sale of properties and the budget leftovers, the city still has to find funding for around $21.6 million of the updated costs.
At the end of Cooke and Farley’s presentation, council members were largely silent. District 2 council member Carlos Flores, an engineer by trade, asked several technical questions about the condition of the current generator in the new building, and other energy efficiency moves the project team has made since its last presentation.
Earlier, District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck praised Athenian Group for holding a workshop on efforts to make the building more environmentally friendly.
“Awesome job,” Mayor Mattie Parker told Farley at the end of the presentation. “We’re really appreciative that you’re working with us.”
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. Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.