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With $2B in development coming, here's what's next for downtown Fort Worth

September 7,2022

See full Dallas Business Journal article by Spencer Brewer here.

With a $2 billion worth of development in the pipeline, there’s a lot of motion in downtown Fort Worth.

Current and planned projects are expected to deliver roughly over the next seven years, with several projects slated for delivery by next year. With this amount of development underway, the downtown area is experiencing growth that will change the city.

Upcoming projects include about 3,000 multifamily units and almost 2,000 hotel rooms. There are also some expansive projects that don’t fall into either of those categories, such as the upcoming Texas A&M University System expansion, the Fort Worth Convention Center and the new city hall at the former Pier 1 headquarters.

On top of this expansive development pipeline, the Panther Island project got a green light.

“We’ve got an opportunity to create something extraordinarily special that could change the world’s perception of Fort Worth,” said Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., the non-profit downtown planning, public space management and advocacy organization.

Taft spoke with the Business Journal about the state of downtown Fort Worth as these projects kick off or near completion:

What are the biggest tailwinds the downtown area is experiencing?

The market’s desire for downtown residential is extraordinarily strong. Coming out of Covid, our hotel demand is also very strong. Tourism is a part of the hospitality market, and we’re seeing stronger tourism demand thanks to the tourism strategy of Visit Fort Worth and the developments that we’ve seen in the Stockyards.

What about headwinds?

I would say the Covid hangover, with regard to the return of the office user. We’re at a little over 70% returned now on any given day. But that’s still a significant headwind.

Something I hear frequently is that Fort Worth has a hard time putting together large blocks of space for office users. How does that dynamic affect downtown?

Anything over 200,000 square feet is a challenge. We don’t see a whole lot of those prospects. I guess that would be a degree of headwind is that Fort Worth isn’t seeing the volume of corporate prospects that the east side of the Metroplex sees.

But I think that the new economic development incentives and economic development partnership that the city has entered into with the Chamber will go a long way toward generating more prospect interest in Fort Worth.

What needs to happen in downtown Fort Worth for those relocations to come?

I think we’re doing the things that it takes — improving mass transit, making sure that it’s an extraordinarily clean and safe and inviting place for employees, making sure that the Interstate access is convenient and reaching out to the development community and ensuring that they understand the opportunity for new construction in downtown, including incentives.

The upcoming Texas A&M University System expansion has gotten a lot of attention. How is that going to affect the southeast portion of downtown?

I’ll start with the 10,000-foot view. Texas A&M is building (several buildings) ... The southeast quadrant of downtown has been quiet for decades. Texas A&M is going to be the anchor that the southeast quadrant of downtown has needed, and it will be a smart people generator.

Companies need smart people. So it will generate economic development potential for Fort Worth simply because we are churning out smart people.

It will generate activity in the southeast quadrant, including a significant amount of hotel demand, we believe, and demand for office space throughout downtown. It will probably also generate a need for student housing and more restaurants and retail options in that corridor of the city.

The list of projects coming to Fort Worth is extensive, with several residential and hospitality developments. How will that influx of foot traffic affect downtown?

I think downtown has a reputation for being very pedestrian friendly, charming, walkable and, at night, very romantic. I think the kind of developments that we’re going to see will build on that and carry that forward.

We’ll have more of it in a larger geographic area. That kind of activity will inspire even more development, and so we will have fewer surface parking lots and more land dedicated to the interest of human beings rather than the storage of cars.

Conversely, what’s going to happen with parking?

It’ll be much more vertical. I think we’ll see more structured parking and more mass transit serving the center city.

Locations Mentioned: Fort Worth Convention Center, Texas A&M University School of Law