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There’s 'a new vision for Sundance Square,' Fort Worth mayor reveals in wide-ranging interview

April 11,2022

See full WFAA news article by Michael McCardel and Jason Whitely here.

The owners of Sundance Square, Ed and Sasha Bass, have new plans for the once-popular downtown shopping and dining district that has spiraled to empty storefronts and uncertainty.

On Sunday’s Inside Texas Politics, Mayor Mattie Parker was asked whether she has spoken to the Basses about the future of this downtown centerpiece.

“I have,” Mayor Parker said. “I’ve spoken to them several times about it. I’ve also talked to and worked very closely with the leadership of Downtown Fort Worth, Inc.”

When asked what the Basses told Parker, the mayor said: “They have a new vision for Sundance Square. They’re trying to execute on that. You shouldn’t want me to, nor do I have any control over private business. I think the number one factor right now is communicating whatever that vision may be to residents and visitors downtown and refocusing those efforts. Am I frustrated? Sure. Because I get a lot of questions about this. But I also have to have faith that private businesses, specifically Mr. Bass who has been an incredible visionary for downtown Fort Worth and the entire community, are allowed some time to let that vision come to fruition.”

Two years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, the Basses changed property management in the 35-block district.

The relationship between property managers and tenants has spiraled ever since. COVID exacerbated it. 

Expensive valet parking replaced free parking near restaurants like the Reata steakhouse.

Now, after 20 years in Sundance Square, Reata announced it will look for a new home when its lease expires in June 2024.

“When you have announcements like Reata, which is a beloved institution in downtown Fort Worth looking for a new location, I hope that all of us heed warning about that because you cannot lose the Reata’s of the world downtown without a huge hit to your economy and what makes Fort Worth and downtown so special,” Mayor Parker added on Inside Texas Politics.

When pressed what the new vision would look like for Sundance Square, Parker said: “I think you have to ask them about what they want to do for the enhancement of small business downtown as well as what their game plan is to make sure our restaurants are successful in Sundance Square.”

She said she does not know when that vision might be fulfilled.

Mayor Parker, who also told Inside Texas Politics she will seek re-election, said Fort Worth is also preparing for two major events next month.

The first is the murder trial of former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean, who is charged with murder in the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson. 

The 28-year-old woman was playing video games in October 2019 with her 8-year-old nephew. 

Dean was dispatched there to check on the house after a neighbor noticed the front door open late at night. Dean walked into the backyard unannounced to investigate. 

Jefferson, inside her own home and unaware that anyone had called police to her home, grabbed her gun and had gotten up to look out the window when she was shot by Dean, according to police. 

Jefferson died at the scene. An arrest warrant stated three times that Dean did not announce that he was a police officer when he walked around the house.

The trial will be “a difficult several weeks for the community,” Mayor Parker said.

She was also asked whether the city has contingency plans in place for civil unrest that might arise from the trial.

“We do have contingency plans and are working, actually, with several of the organizations that led protests in the summer of 2020,” the mayor explained, “to make sure they understand that peaceful protests will absolutely be welcomed and allowed. But there’s a line we’re going to draw if things are going to become dangerous for the community.”

Also next month, the city of Fort Worth will hold a bond election on May 7. One of the proposals voters are being asked to approve is $15 million for “open space conservation.” 

Mayor Parker says green space in the city is in jeopardy.

“It’s around 50 acres per week that are developed in the city of Fort Worth every single week. We’re the fastest growing city, we talk about that a lot. And with growth comes tremendous opportunity, but you also have a huge risk and one of those risks is an overdevelopment of our beautiful green space and open space across the city of Fort Worth.”