Amid plenty of maroon and shouts of “gig ‘em,” Texas A&M-Fort Worth broke ground Wednesday on the first building for its planned urban research campus in downtown Fort Worth.
“We see this is a once-in-a-lifetime transformative opportunity to make sure Fort Worth has a vision and a pathway for not just workforce and education, but for corporate development and investment in the fastest-growing city in the country,” Mayor Mattie Parker said shortly after she and other local and Texas A&M officials symbolically turned shovels of dirt to begin construction.
The Texas A&M University System is beginning construction at 1600 Jones St. on its Law & Education Building, a $150 million, eight-story home for its School of Law as well as other academic offerings by Texas A&M University, Texas A&M Health and Tarleton State University.
The city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County are collaborating with the Texas A&M System to construct two additional campus buildings over four-city blocks owned by the A&M System just east of the current Texas A&M School of Law on the southeast side of downtown.
The second structure, the Research & Innovation Building, is where several Texas A&M System agencies will work alongside private sector tenants. A third structure, the Gateway Building, will house offices, more classroom and meeting spaces and a conference center. In total, the Texas A&M-Fort Worth campus investment is expected to total $350 million.
At Wednesday’s event, one of those first collaborations with a local company was announced. Lockheed Martin has signed a memorandum of understanding to discuss jointly developing education courses, workforce training and research programs, including the possibility of Lockheed researchers working alongside the staff and students at Texas A&M-Fort Worth.
“It’s not often you break ground on one building while announcing potential tenants for a second building still on the drawing boards,” said Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. “It just demonstrates the commitment of the A&M System and our community partners to get this game-changer up and running quickly.”
Bridget Lauderdale, vice president of Lockheed Martin and a Texas A&M graduate who leads the company’s F-35 fighter jet program in Fort Worth, said the agreement will help ensure a talent pipeline of engineers for the company.
“Together, we will continue our joint, cutting-edge research to deliver innovative solutions for 21st Century security challenges, providing transformational capabilities in support of national security,” she said.
John Goff is a Fort Worth business leader who, as head of Fort Worth Now, helped lead the development of the Texas A&M-Fort Worth partnership. Several other companies are discussing roles at the campus, though they have not yet signed memorandums of understanding, he said.
CEOs of Elbit America and Alcon, both companies with large operations in Fort Worth, have said they plan to be involved with Texas A&M-Fort Worth, Goff said
Other companies have also expressed interest, including some that will bring new types of jobs and employment to the area.
“I’m working with one right now,” said Goff. “It will be the first of its kind in the city. It’s not an industry the city has right now. And knock on wood, we’ll get it.”
The attraction for that unnamed company is that Texas A&M can produce the graduates the company needs, said Goff, who now chairs the Fort Worth-Tarrant County Innovation Partnership, the successor to Fort Worth Now.
“Something like that will attract other companies like it to the city,” he said.
The Fort Worth-Tarrant County Innovation Partnership is being funded by $4 million split evenly between the city and the county. That organization will act to coordinate between the school and the developers and potential corporate and other tenants.
The Texas A&M investment in the city will pay benefits for years, Parker said.
“This is the first of its kind public-private collaboration intended to boost the regional economy while anchoring an innovation district in southeast downtown,” she said.
Stantec will serve as the architect of record for the Law & Education building with design architect Pelli Clarke & Partners assisting with labs. The construction management teams are Turner Construction Co., CARCON Industries, Source Building Group Inc. and Dikita Enterprises.
The Law & Education Building should be completed by 2025, with the goal of completing the first three campus buildings by 2027.
Disclosure: John Goff is a financial contributor to the Fort Worth Report. 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.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com.