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What’s ahead for downtown Fort Worth? A look back provides insight

May 13,2024


See full Fort Worth Report article by Bob Francis here.

When current JLL real estate leader Todd Burnette first came to Fort Worth in the mid-1980s, downtown Fort Worth was still struggling to find itself. 

“The way I remember it, what really began to bring people downtown was the opening of Bass Hall,” he said. 

Bass Hall opened in May 1998, celebrating its 25th anniversary last year. 

“That great venue began to draw people downtown, first to the events and then with retail and residential,” he said. 

When Burnette first came to the city, the area where Bass Hall now sits was a parking lot. 

“It made a big difference,” he said. 

Milo Ramirez had several successful locations of his Salsa Limón restaurant up and running. But he wanted to be downtown and, in 2016, opened his taqueria at 550 Throckmorton St. 

“It’s been great,” he said. “I think it was needed downtown, and I thought it was important to be there.” 

Downtown didn’t become an economic force overnight. What’s ahead for downtown will be the focus Wednesday of a Fort Worth Report panel discussion.  

It took a coalition of public and private partnerships to make it happen, said one of the panelists, Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., the downtown management and advocacy organization that also manages the tax district for the area. 

“It was a lot of steps by various organizations that brought us to where we are,” he said. 

If You Go 

Event: What’s next for downtown Fort Worth?
When: Wednesday, May 15 at 7:30 a.m. 

Where: Martin Center, Texas Wesleyan University, 1201 Wesleyan St. 

Join the Fort Worth Report for a panel discussion on the future of downtown Fort Worth! Panelists include:

  • Andy Taft, president, Downtown Fort Worth Inc.
  • Brian Newby, managing partner, Cantey Hanger law firm
  • Bob Jameson, president, Visit Fort Worth
  • Nina Petty, executive director, Texas A&M School of Law

For more information, click here

There are now 9,914 residents living downtown, compared to a fraction of that 25 years ago. 

A new high-rise, Deco 969, recently opened with 302 apartments. 

JLL’s Burnette expects to see more big residential projects downtown. 

“I think there are more coming soon,” he said. 

Many of those projects will serve the growth in the southern end of downtown, spurred on by the Texas A&M Fort Worth project. 

That’s a similar phenomenon to what took place when Bass Hall opened, Burnette said. 

“That area where Texas A&M is going in, those were parking lots, too,” he said. “I think that’s just a real gem for downtown. We won’t recognize that area in five years.” 

The Texas A&M project is also creating interest from developers, many who have not previously been involved in downtown Fort Worth. 

Taft and Burnette both cited Hillwood’s acquisition of a city block just north of the Texas A&M campus as a harbinger of things to come. 

“We’re seeing a lot of interest in that area of downtown, and Texas A&M is just getting started,” said Burnette. 

Hillwood has not yet said what the company plans to do with the property. 

That Texas A&M project will also likely bring more companies to downtown interested in proximity to the university. 

“Fort Worth’s downtown office market is still strong, particularly when compared to other cities,” said Burnette. 

But the overall changes to the office market are still impacting the city, Taft noted. 

“There has been a lot of inventory removed from the downtown office market,” he said. “That’s helped our average vacancy rate.” 

There are plenty of new hotels coming to downtown as well. The Sheraton Fort Worth recently reopened after a facelift, and the 14-story Le Méridien is set to open in the summer. 

Fort Worth voters approved a higher tax rate for visitors to the city via a hotel occupancy tax rate hike on May 4. The extra tax revenue will primarily be used to fund a $701 million expansion project for the downtown convention center. It will also help pay for future tourism-related projects, including plans for a new hotel on Commerce Street. 

“The south end of downtown seems to be the next area of downtown to take off,” said Burnette. 

And other areas of downtown or near downtown are also ripe for development. Panther Island, just to the north of downtown, is seeing the first signs of development and there are also plans for a project just west along West Seventh Street. To the east, plans for Butler Place could spark new projects there. 

All those factors keep downtown relevant as Fort Worth grows, said Burnette. 

“It’s just a cool place, you know,” he said. “It’s not too big. It’s safe, and that Western flair is visible. That is going to continue to drive interest from outside of downtown.” 

Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at bob.francis@fortworthreport.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.


Location Mentioned: Texas A&M Fort Worth