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What’s next for Fort Worth’s City Hall building?

June 13,2023

See full KERA News article by Emily Wolf with The Fort Worth Report here.

es, lest it be returned to the federal government. As a result, the city is hiring an architectural services firm to design and remodel the building to better suit its needs moving forward.

Two options have been floated so far — a new base of operations for the police department’s central patrol, and a new library for residents in downtown Fort Worth. Other department uses aren’t out of the question.

“I think we should focus on how the police activities and other activities that could go into the building might contribute to the vitality of our downtown,” assistant city manager Fernando Costa said.

Police plan consolidation of facilities

Currently, two facility leases for police on 501 Jones and 1289 Hemphill are costing the city more than $700,000 annually. The high cost leases are one of the drivers for consolidation efforts in the current City Hall, Costa said.

The city also is leasing space at 1000 Calvert from the Tarrant Regional Water District, and moving operations would allow demolition of the facility as part of the Central City Flood Control project, according to an informal report to city council.

ime Control and Prevention District’s capital projects funds. City leaders approved spending $30 million from the fund in January 2022 for the project.

As part of the renovations, contractors also will build a new parking garage for police officers in the building. The police department needs about twice the parking as most other departments, due to the combination of officers’ personal vehicles and their patrol vehicles, Costa said.

“It has the benefit, of course, of promoting greater coordination and efficiency within the police department,” Costa said. “It also will represent a valuable resource for public safety in downtown Fort Worth.”

Central Library could move to City Hall

In addition to consolidating its police force, the city is also considering placing a new downtown library branch in the City Hall building. The same architectural firm tasked with remodeling the building for police use will also look at whether it could be a good site for library services.

The need for a new library branch arose after the city announced plans to close its Central Library in downtown Fort Worth. Those doors will close for good June 30 — in the meantime, the city is looking for a new location in the area.

“There is a significant demand for library services in and around downtown,” Costa said. “And so we have been looking for several months now at different possibilities in the marketplace, and we have not been able to strike a deal yet. And so I think it’s appropriate for us to keep our options open. “

Marilyn Marvin, interim library director, said regardless of what location the city ultimately chooses, the new downtown library will be a full service branch.

“I applaud the staff from both the library and property management departments for their diligence in exploring numerous locations,” Marvin said in a written statement. “The list of viable locations is being narrowed down and we hope to select a final location soon.”

Costa acknowledged that the combination of police facilities and a public library is unorthodox.

“Wherever it goes, we want it to be open and accessible and welcoming,” he said. “Now whether everybody would feel equally welcomed in a building that’s going to be occupied by hundreds of police officers, may be a different question.”

A piece of history

When the current City Hall was constructed in the 1970s, it was the height of architectural fashion. Designed by New York architect Edward Durell Stone, the building itself was intended to improve service to a rapidly growing population, according to Fort-Worth Star Telegram archives from 1963.

The brutalist modern style of the current City Hall’s architecture has fallen out of vogue, and public opinion on its presence downtown is mixed.

“Some folks hate it,” Costa said. “And yet, some folks learn to love it. And it represents part of our history. It’s now more than 50 years old. So some folks would even argue that it’s historically and architecturally significant in that respect.”

The current City Hall isn’t the first to be repurposed after it was replaced. The previous City Hall on Throckmorton Street was repurposed as the A.D. Marshall Public Safety & Courts Building, and it’s still in use today.

The building’s age shouldn’t have any impact on its ability to serve a new purpose, Costa said.

“I think the building will be suitable for use over many years,” he said.