At the top of the Bluff, isolated from the rest of downtown and the Trinity River below, Heritage Plaza has been closed and fenced from the public since 2007. After years of planning, the Heritage and Paddock Parks Project will reopen the plaza, create more downtown park and public spaces, activate the bluff, celebrate our history, connect downtown to the river and complete – finally - the north end of downtown. To date. More than $35M has been raised for the $50M project.
Connecting Downtown to the River
Heritage Park Plaza was designed and built to celebrate the founding of Fort Worth. Its location, on the high bluff of the Trinity River, is on the site of the outpost built by the US Army in 1849. The Plaza was built to commemorate the US Bicentennial, but in 2007, it was closed for safety reasons.
Since then, the Lawrence Halprin-designed plaza has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and community leaders have been working not only on its thoughtful refurbishment and reopening but addressing the physical challenges that kept it from being successful.
Those challenges are:
Daunting Weatherford Street and Belknap Street crossings
Paddock Park stands as an unused barrier with no attraction value
The “forecourt” of Heritage Park Plaza is intimidating and uninviting
The Plaza lacks visibility from the street
Lack of visibility into and out of the Plaza
Plaza isolation on the northern edge of Downtown
There is no connection to the river and trails below
A New Vision for Heritage Park Plaza
To address these shortcomings and enhance the Heritage Plaza environment, plans for the greater Heritage and Paddock Park improvements include:
Courthouse Pedestrian Improvements
Funding from the North Central Texas Council of Governments and Tarrant County will reduce crossing distances of both Weatherford and Belknap streets at the four corners of the courthouse. Street signalizations will also be improved.
Paddock Park, serving today as an unremarkable, nearly two-acre traffic median, will be reconfigured into a new, elegant park space at the foot of the Tarrant County Courthouse. The renovation envisions capturing the "bailout lane" to the north of the park and the concrete triangle into the park itself. This increases the park's size for users and provides a graceful crossing of North Main to Heritage Plaza. Plans also include a waterfall and shallow pool. The park will be landscaped and graded, adding significantly to the Downtown inventory of programmable public space while creating a significant new attraction linking Heritage Plaza and the River to the rest of Downtown.
The Forecourt will welcome visitors to Heritage Plaza with clearer sight lines, improved landscape and hardscape features, better lighting, softer materials, and a more formal sense of arrival. From the Forecourt, guests will be able to see into Heritage Plaza, creating a sense of curiosity and exploration – a much different impression than the tall Plaza walls currently provide.
The Promenade begins the visitor passage to the high bluff and the west entry of the Plaza. For events, this pedestrian extension of Houston Street can host food trucks and caterers, serve as a pre-function reception area, and provide seating and shade for visitors.
The Foyer provides the first bluff-top views for visitors and links the Promenade and Plaza. Anchored by an artistically transformed, monumental Oncor vault, the Foyer adds another seating or performance area. The Foyer can also serve as a place for food and drink stations for events held in the Plaza or can serve as an event or dining space in its own right.
At the top of the Bluff, a deep Oncor vault receives cables from under the river that connect the Panther Island substation to downtown. This vault, which must remain, provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the bluff-top terminus of the Houston Street “extension.” The concrete vault will be enclosed in a perforated metal wrap and illuminated, creating The Lantern. This new focal point will be visible from Paddock Park and will anchor the Foyer, joining the walls of Heritage Plaza and help create the feeling of an open air room.
The Balcony is a significant new public space Downtown. It offers one of the few places where the general public can appreciate an elevated view in Fort Worth and will be equipped with romantic decorative lighting, electricity, and other features for event production. Located at the top of the bluff and projecting over the Canopy Walk and River Stairs, the Balcony will offer commanding views of the Paddock Street Viaduct, the Trinity River Valley, Panther Island, and Bluff. The Balcony will be a popular viewing location for fireworks and other river events.
The Canopy Walk will be an elevated walkway that leaves the Balcony and meanders down the bluff at a modest slope, descending through the trees and providing new experiences at every turn. The Canopy Walk allows us to tell Fort Worth's unique stories. Stories range from the low sea that once covered this land and the marine fossils and limestone formations that form the bluff to dinosaurs, the river, the people who lived here for millennia, cattle drives, and oil and gas. The Canopy Walk will allow us to enjoy and traverse the bluff itself and tell the rich stories of Fort Worth's heritage in the actual location where those stories continue to take place.
At the bottom of the canopy walk will be the River Stairs, another new, grand public space. The River Stairs will serve as a riverfront amphitheater, providing opportunities for performances, exercise, seating, event viewing, or a quiet break along the Trinity Trails. The River Stairs will be where people can rest and relax, fall in love, and celebrate special moments with friends and family. It is hoped that the River Stairs will provide a future pedestrian connection point between Downtown and Panther Island.
At the bottom of the Canopy Walk, gracefully meeting the river road, is The Landing. This space widens like a river delta, serving as either a welcome to the Trinity Trails or to the Canopy Walk and what awaits above. The Landing will offer seating, educational exhibits, landscaping and public art, a fitting way to begin or end the experiences created by the Heritage and Paddock Park projects.
An alternate course to the Trinity River Bottoms, Franklin Street gently descends a tree shaded route to Taylor Street and the formal Ripley Arnold bronze monument. This pedestrian and bicycle path will be upgraded to include a more uniform and usable surface, enhanced lighting and an exhibit recognizing the El Corte Barrio that housed Mexican-American families on the site for generations. The remains of the El Corte homes can be seen in the stone and concrete walls, steps and foundations visible below the path. Franklin Street will tie into the Foyer, adding yet another access point from the trails to Heritage Plaza and Downtown.
To date, planning, engineering studies, and design have been funded by the Amon G. Carter Foundation, the City of Fort Worth, Streams and Valleys, Inc., and the Sid Richardson Foundation. Design funding to date totals about $2M.
In May 2014, City of Fort Worth voters approved a bond package that included $1.5M for Plaza restoration efforts.
In August 2016, the Downtown TIF approved $1M towards the project.
In August 2020, the Regional Transportation Council approved $7.3M for pedestrian improvements surrounding the Tarrant County Courthouse and Heritage Park Plaza. An additional $8M of funding was indicated for the ADA pedestrian access to the river, subject to final project fundraising success.
Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks pledged $2M from his transportation fund toward road improvements around the Courthouse.
In May 2022, City of Fort Worth voters approved a bond package that included $13.5M for the Heritage and Paddock Park projects.
To date, $35M has been raised.
The DFWI fundraising goal (at the 30% design stage) is $50M. This includes an allowance for construction price escalations, contingencies, and $5M to establish a permanent endowment for long-term maintenance and repairs to be held by Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives, Inc.
Please help us preserve an important piece of Fort Worth's heritage. Contact Andy Taft at firstname.lastname@example.org to contribute or explore underwriting and naming opportunities.
Heritage and Paddock Park Partners:
Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives, Inc.
City of Fort Worth
Amon G. Carter Foundation
Streams and Valleys
Sid Richardson Foundation
Historic Fort Worth, Inc.
North Texas Council of Governments
Arts Fort Worth
DOWNTOWN FORT WORTH INITIATIVES, INC.
DFWII is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that provides a pathway for foundation grants, philanthropic donations, and other contributions to help fund charitable, educational, and public-purpose Downtown projects.
DFWII is an active partner in the continued evolution of Downtown. Notable projects include:
DFWII is a partner and co-owner in Jennings Place, 172 unit, 12-acre, mixed-income residential development with Fort Worth Housing Solutions
DFWII managed the Convention Center events plaza design (2002-3)
DFWII master leased the UTA Fort Worth Center and facilitated UTA's occupancy (2007)
DFWII developed and maintains the JFK Tribute in Fort Worth (2011-present)
DFWII renovated and maintains General Worth Square (2011-present)
DFWII renovated, maintains, and manages Burnett Park and holds a $4.5M endowment from the Burnett Foundation (2008-present)
DFWII fundraised and commissioned the U3 Texas A&M expansion study (2021)
DFWII fundraised and commissioned the U3 Texas A&M Fort Worth/Tarrant County Needs Assessment (2022)
DFWII fundraised and commissioned the African American Museum concept workshop (2022)
DFWII is leading the Heritage Plaza restoration design ($35M raised)