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Finally reopening downtown Fort Worth’s Heritage Plaza took a step forward

April 7,2020

See full Star Telegram News Article by Luke Ranker here.

Plans to reopen Heritage Plaza and extend the downtown park on the Trinity River bluff took a step forward Tuesday when the Fort Worth City Council approved $1 million for design work. 

That’s a sliver of the $40 million plan to reopen the park in time for the city’s 175th anniversary in 2024. Along with restoring the Lawrence Halprin-designed Heritage Park, which closed in 2007 due to safety concerns, proponents also want to revamp Paddock Park, which sits just north of the historic Tarrant County Courthouse with fountains and extend Heritage Park’s public space down the bluff to the river. 

The money comes from the city’s 2014 bond package and will not be affected by a projected decrease to city revenue related to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Today, a chain link fence guards the plaza’s fountains. It was built a few years after the Fort Worth Water Gardens in the late 1970s and followed the same theme — combining elements of water and stone to create a downtown oasis. Now leaves and dirt are now gathered in the fountain’s pools.

Restoring just Heritage Plaza would cost $2.5 million plus $1.3 million for new landscaping in front of the plaza, according to an itemized budget proposal. The river staircase and canopy walked would cost a total of $7 million, and Paddock Park’s water feature is estimated to be about $1.8 million. Street work, including improvements to Franklin Street along the river, would cost almost $7 million. A more than $9 million contingency is built in.

Fernando Costa, an assistant city manager, told council members in early March the city could look at using $12.5 million from the upcoming 2022 bond program, which requires voter approval, for the project. There’s another $500,000 left from the 2014 bond and $1 million available from a special downtown tax district. The city would also be asked to pay about $3 million over 10 years for maintenance, bringing the public investment to about $19 million.

Another $20 million would be needed from other sources, Costa said. Private donors have already funded about $1 million worth of preliminary design and engineering work that included placing geological sensors along the limestone bluff to ensure the ground wasn’t shifting. But more private investment would be needed. Money could also be available through the North Central Texas Council of Governments, Tarrant County and the state, though those agencies have not committed yet.