Burnett Plaza has remained the tallest building in Fort Worth since it opened in 1983.
At first glance, high-rise development in the city has been mostly at a standstill since the oil and gas boom in the 1980s. However, experts say upcoming projects may signal a potential surge in sky-high building development.
One of the new buildings under construction is the Deco 969 building, a 27-story multifamily project located on Commerce Street that is on track to be completed by the end of 2023. The building will not be taller than Burnett Plaza, which has 40 stories and is 567 feet, but interest in Deco 969 may lead to future development in high-rise growth, said Nathan Boschult, a Texas Real Estate Source spokesman.
“If that building is financially successful with younger residents, it could trigger exponential high-rise growth alongside the new downtown Texas A&M campus and its potential Lockheed Martin collaboration,” Boschult said in an email.
The new projects might lead to a boom in the downtown population, impacting traffic and congestion but also increasing the demand for dining and retail establishments, he said.
‘Seeds planted decades ago’
Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., sees the city moving forward to attract more professional office users, which will lead to the construction of high-rise office buildings.
There’s a lack of demand for office space in North Texas. However, Fort Worth saw a slightly positive trend in net office leasing.
Dart Interests LLC, which purchased the downtown Central Library last month, is planning at least one high-rise building on the site, Taft said. A high rise is generally defined as having more than 75 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access.
More residential apartments and condos also are planned for downtown, Taft added.
The major expansion of the Omni Fort Worth Hotel, previously sidelined because of the pandemic, is expected to add 400 rooms and a minimum of 50,000 square feet of convention space as a second smaller tower at Lancaster Avenue and Houston Street.
In May, the Texas A&M University System’s Board of Regents approved the $150 million needed for an eight-story building to anchor a new research campus.
Centergy Retail recently filed a waiver for a high-rise building on Greenleaf Drive.
“The developments that we see occurring now: Texas A&M, all of the residential development, the hotel, the convention center — these are all fruits that are being harvested from seeds planted decades ago,” Taft said.
‘Do it right’
Fort Worth is still far behind in high-rise development, according to a recent Texas Real Estate Source study.
The city currently has 7,773 combined feet of height from 24 buildings, according to the data.
Houston has above 30,000 feet, Dallas is at nearly 22,000 feet, and Austin currently has over 23,000 feet, but the state capital is projected to become the tallest city in Texas by 2026, according to the study.
Taft emphasized Fort Worth’s sky-high development operates within the context of the Metroplex. The significantly larger Dallas captures a significant share of corporate relocation, he said.
Developers have likely hesitated to build office space in downtown Fort Worth because they were unsure about the demand for it as Dallas met those needs, Boschult said.
To better prepare for the development, Fort Worth has developed plans based on the lesson of other cities with many high-rise buildings, Taft said. The city rewards high-quality developments built near transit lines and on surface parking lots; sets economic strategies geared toward multiple areas of different companies focused on specific industries; and uses design standards that provide walkability, he said.
Fort Worth is almost 150 years old, and about 33% of downtown land is either vacant or underdeveloped, so there’s no rush, he said.
“We want to do it, and we want to do it right,” Taft said.
In the past two decades, Fort Worth added two skyscrapers: the 447-foot-tall, 33-story Omni Fort Worth Hotel in 2009 and the 368-foot-tall Frost Bank Tower, which has 25 stories, in 2018, according to Texas Real Estate Source data.
The city also added Pier 1 Imports Building in 2004, The Carnegie and Trinity Terrace City Tower in 2008 and Trinity Terrace River Tower in 2017.
The new buildings under construction, which are mostly for residential use, could lead to more people living in downtown Fort Worth, Boschult said. In 2022, 8,685 people lived in downtown Fort Worth, according to the city.
“A higher downtown population could, in turn, spark more commercial skyscraper development, leading to a growth cycle,” Boschult said.
Adding more businesses means more buildings in Fort Worth, leading to more jobs, restaurants and retail, hotels and homes, Taft said.
Editor’s note: The story was updated July 17, 2023, to include additional high-rise buildings that were built in downtown Fort Worth in the past two decades.
Dang Le is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or via Twitter. 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.