Downtown Fort Worth's 46,000 employees are returning to the office. More prospects are in the pipeline

July 20,2021

See full Dallas Business Journal article by Ryan Salchert here.

About 1,500 businesses call downtown Fort Worth home, and of their 46,000 employees, more and more are returning to the office each week.

"We’ve seen a sharp rise in office user return," said Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc. "In June, our parking survey suggested about 35% of the office users were coming back. In July, it jumped to about 50%. This is consistent with what CEOs were telling us would happen. More companies are bringing their employees back each week, so the next few months should see steady gains." 

As employees return to the office, activity has also returned to the leasing market. In the Dallas Business Journal's most recent Relocation Station article, we identified nine opportunities in downtown Fort Worth that could accommodate a large relocation or headquarters move. These nine opportunities account for nearly 3 million square feet of existing and future office space.

Downtown Fort Worth is already home to a number of headquarters, including FirstCash Inc. (Nasdaq: FCFS), Freese and Nichols, GM Financial and TPG Global. According to DFWI, downtown's 1,500 businesses and 46,000 employees have a private payroll of $3 billion annually.

To learn more about downtown Fort Worth and why a company should consider relocating here, the Business Journal recently spoke with Taft, who has been the leader of DFWI for nearly two decades. The non-profit organization is an advocacy group charged with creating and fostering downtown Fort Worth's strategic action plan and vision. DFWI also manages two public improvement districts, the downtown Tax Increment Finance District, two city parks, and puts on numerous events throughout the year:

What are some existing buildings, proposed projects or pieces of land that come to mind that could accommodate a large headquarters within downtown Fort Worth?

In addition to several sizable blocks of space ready for immediate leasing ... two of XTO Energy's former buildings are available now. They are in great shape and both are ready for a quick occupancy by a single user or multiple tenants.  

There are a number of full blocks available for development in the walkable core of downtown, including unique transit-oriented development opportunities near Central Station and sites near Sundance Square. A typical block is about 40,000 square feet, perfect for high-rise construction with a parking garage below or adjacent to the office building.  

Does your organization get involved with meeting prospective companies who are considering a move to downtown Fort Worth?  

DFWI partners with the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and the city of Fort Worth when prospects are interested in downtown. In addition, pre-COVID, we partnered with downtown’s leading high-rise owners and launched a digital awareness campaign in select cities nationally, elevating downtown Fort Worth’s profile as a corporate relocation option in the Metroplex. We are ramping up that campaign again.   

How much activity from prospective companies have you all been seeing lately?  
The office leasing pipeline has picked up a lot lately as we emerge from COVID. There are a couple of significant potential deals looking at space now. It was slow in the first quarter as we began to emerge meaningfully from COVID, but we seem to be gaining momentum again.

How was downtown Fort Worth specifically impacted by the pandemic and how are things today?

Like all cities, hospitality was hit especially hard. Fortunately, our weekend business has rebounded quickly and the return of corporate travel and conventions is right around the corner. The late summer and fall will see a marked increase in convention center occupancy. The new AC, Sinclair and Kimpton hotels recently opened, adding a total of 736 rooms. Another 576 are under construction. The expansion of the Convention Center is expected to be attended by a new 1,000-room convention headquarters hotel. 

Some restaurants and retailers closed. The bulk of these vacancies are in prime locations and will backfill quickly, we hope. Plans are being made to restart the Fort Worth Convention Center expansion project.

Residential was a steadying shock absorber during COVID. With more than 10,000 people living downtown, this base of business was crucial to our ground floor merchants and restaurants. New residential construction continued apace during the pandemic with three large developments recently and soon to add about 1,000 units. Absorption is brisk. Another 1,000 units are expected to open within the next two years.   

Why should a company want to move here versus somewhere else in North Texas?  

Downtown Fort Worth is a boutique office destination in an authentic city center. It’s beautiful, charming, walkable and safe and has every amenity companies and their employees need. From brand new highrises to exquisitely renovated historic buildings, companies can find space that suits their culture and, at the same time, are steps from a quick train directly into DFW Airport. Downtown Fort Worth is the center of the fastest-growing city in the Metroplex. Fort Worth is now the 12th largest city in the U.S., making it fertile ground for companies recruiting talented employees.