Groundbreaking: Construction begins for Texas A&M’s new campus in downtown Fort Worth
See full Fort Worth Business Press article by Marice Richter here.
Top leaders from the Texas A&M University System and Fort Worth joined together on Wednesday to turn some dirt and celebrate the start of construction for the first building of Texas A&M-Fort Worth’s new downtown research campus.
It’s been a mere 18 months since the Texas A&M System announced its intentions to build the three-building urban campus across four city blocks owned by the Texas A&M System.
Texas A&M-Fort Worth is a public-private partnership as well as a collaboration between the Texas A&M System and the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. The campus will anchor an innovation district aimed at supporting business growth and workforce development.
Construction of the new campus will begin with the Law & Education Building that will replace the current Texas A&M Law School Building, which is more than 50 years old.
The eight-story building, with a price tag of $150 million, will be paid for by the Texas A&M System. The university’s Board of Regents approved the expenditure last month. It is expected to be complete in 2025.
The other two high-rise buildings will be built with funding from the university system, the city, Tarrant County and private investment.
The Gateway Building will contain more classroom and meetings spaces along with a conference center.
The Research and Innovation Building will house public and private research and development initiatives in engineering, defense, agriculture, telecommunications, health sciences and technology.
The facility will be home to the regional offices of several Texas A&M agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas Engineering Experiment Station, and the Texas Engineering Extension Service.
The complex will also provide space for academic programs offered by Tarleton State University as well as other Texas A&M disciplines, including engineering, emergency management and health sciences.
The entire campus is projected to be complete in 2027.
A key figure in all this is Bobby Ahdieh, who arrived in Fort Worth as dean of the Texas A&M University School of Law five years ago, bringing fresh ideas and an agenda that included real estate.
As a result, the law school is one of the fastest-rising in the country and was recently ranked 29th, on the list of the best graduate schools, according to the latest ranking by U.S. News & World Report.
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp saw the potential for a law school when he first became chancellor in 2011. Texas A&M acquired the law school from Texas Wesleyan University a decade ago.
“At the time, it was unranked and has now risen in the rankings faster than any law school in history,” Sharp stated. “We won’t stop until it is ranked in the top 10 in America.”
The law school will be the centerpiece of the Texas A&M-Fort Worth campus but the vision for redevelopment of the area has grown significantly broader.
“We saw the opportunity for A&M to do something much more consequential,” Ahdieh said “It is a real game-changer.
Fortunately, he said, “John Sharp never met a big idea he didn’t like.”
The plan for the ambitious project was a team effort credited to the foresight of Fort Worth real estate and business magnate John Goff and former Mayor Betsy Price, who approached Texas A&M leaders about expanding the university’s footprint in Fort Worth, mainly because Fort Worth was the largest city in Texas without a major public research facility.
“We were looking for a way to get through the pandemic by creating more jobs and opportunities,” said Goff, who chairs the Fort Worth-Tarrant County Innovation Partnership, an outgrowth of Fort Worth Now.
“I called Bobby and showed him some land,” Goff said. “We climbed on top of the law school building to look around.”
Goff said he and Ahdieh discussed how Texas A&M’s talent and its reputation for educational and research excellence could be transformative for Fort Worth beyond a new law school building.
Before long, Goff and Price flew to College Station for a meeting with Sharp and others who agreed, Goff said, “to make this happen.”
At Wednesday’s celebratory groundbreaking, Goff announced that the CEOs of Elbit America and Alcon, both Fort Worth companies, have agreed to involvement with the research campus.
“Lockheed Martin is proud to continue collaborating with Texas A&M University through this memorandum of understanding, establishing an additional talent pipeline of quality engineers in Fort Worth,” said Bridget Lauderdale, vice president of Lockheed Martin and a Texas A&M graduate.
“Together, we will continue our joint, cutting-edge research to deliver innovative solutions for 21st Century security challenges, providing transformational capabilities in support of national security,” she said.
Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, a graduate of the Texas A&M School of Law, said the Texas A&M-Fort Worth campus is “what Fort Worth needs at this moment in our history.
“This groundbreaking represents countless future careers in law, medical technology, nursing and engineering, all of which are vital to meeting the need for a highly-skilled workforce in Fort Worth and North Texas for decades to come,” she stated.
Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare said the campus “will bring in multiple high-quality business relocations to partner with the university and will enhance an already first-class downtown.”
Stantec is architect of record for the Law & Education Building and will work in partnership with the design architect, Pelli Clarke & Partners. The construction management teams are Turner Construction Co., CARCON Industries, Source Building Group Inc. and Dikita Enterprises.