Federal funds will remove asbestos from Fort Worth Convention Center
See full Fort Worth Report article by Haley Samsel here.
Thanks to a $1 million federal grant, the city of Fort Worth won’t foot the bill for removing asbestos materials and other contaminants from the convention center’s arena.
The Fort Worth Convention Center is one of 267 projects across the U.S. to receive funding from the Environmental Protection Agency’s brownfields program. Brownfields are properties where expansion or redevelopment are complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance or pollutant.
City officials are in the midst of a $701 million expansion of the Fort Worth Convention Center. The first phase of the project, including construction of new food and beverage facilities and the realignment of Commerce Street, is expected to begin in August.
Then in late 2026, the project will demolish the center’s 13,000-seat arena and expand exhibit halls, ballrooms and meeting spaces in an effort to attract more regional and national conferences. Before demolition starts, the city must clean up asbestos, a mineral fiber, in accordance with federal regulations.
“This grant award will directly contribute to the long-awaited expansion of the Fort Worth Convention Center, a project that will promote our community on a local, state, national and even global level and bring visitors and dollars into Fort Worth’s local businesses and vibrant tourism economy,” Mayor Mattie Parker said in a statement.
Surveys of the convention center conducted in 2004 and 2017 indicate that about 96,000 square feet of building materials contain asbestos. Back in 1968, when the convention center was built, asbestos was regularly used in a variety of construction materials for insulation and fire prevention. Asbestos exposure has since been linked to higher risks of lung disease.
The identified asbestos materials are in good condition, but require cleanup before the materials are disturbed during demolition activities, said Dan Miracle, the city’s brownfields coordinator. When it becomes airborne, asbestos breaks down into smaller fibers and can lead to serious lung damage and cancer.
“Since the Convention Center hosts 60-70 events each year, it is imperative that the general public be protected from exposure to asbestos fiber releases,” city staff wrote in the application to the EPA last fall.
In addition to the convention center project, Fort Worth requested $500,000 from the EPA to assess eastside properties in need of environmental cleanup. The EPA did not select the project for funding.
The assessment would have focused primarily on the abandoned Butler Place property, which previously served as low-income housing for Fort Worth families, and the former R. Vickery School building, which has fallen into disrepair since its closure in 1985.
After the Near Southside was selected for a brownfields assessment grant in 2020, city environmental staff identified different neighborhoods that could be suitable for future EPA applications, Miracle said. Eventually, staff and other city partners determined that east Fort Worth was the best “target area,” he added.
Developers have expressed interest in revitalizing the 42-acre Butler Place site just east of downtown, which is owned by Fort Worth Housing Solutions. And Beta Tau Lambda, the local chapter of the historically Black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha Inc., filed paperwork to buy the building from the city of Fort Worth last year, according to previous Fort Worth Report coverage.
The city’s brownfields program has already begun assessing the R. Vickery School property, Roderick Miles, a board member of the Beta Tau Lambda Charitable Foundation, told the Report in March. Assessment grant funds can be spent on brownfields anywhere within city limits, not just the areas highlighted in an application, Miracle said.
Starting in 1999, the city has received four brownfields assessment grants and a revolving loan fund grant. Fort Worth’s brownfields program has helped redevelop a neighborhood near John Peter Smith Hospital, a 1940s fuel station in the Lake Como area and several properties in the Evans and Rosedale area east of Interstate 35.
Reporter Sandra Sadek contributed reporting.
Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at email@example.com.
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Location Mentioned: Fort Worth Convention Center