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With More Than $2B Of Development In The Pipeline, Downtown Fort Worth Is Having A Moment

While the vast majority of America’s central business districts are on life support, Downtown Fort Worth is thriving. 

More than $2B in projects are under development as the city's population booms and stakeholders angle for more business. Those projects cover a range of industries intended to feed Fort Worth's burgeoning economy while positioning its urban core to sidestep the hardships seen in other metros.

But the city is dealing with the same complicated financial environment as the rest of the nation, pushing city leaders to be intentional about its growth.

The Fort Worth skyline, as seen in May

“We are heading into a period where the financial markets are a little bit challenging, and the work-from-home effort is still in full swing,” said Robert Sturns, the city’s director of economic development. 

“Being very thoughtful and controlled about how we do growth downtown has benefited us because we are not seeing some of the challenges here that you’ve seen in other communities across the state.”

Fort Worth’s population has increased by more than 4% to nearly 1 million people since 2020, making it the fastest-growing city in the U.S. The influx of residents has raised Fort Worth’s profile as a formidable competitor for corporate relocations, and it has begun to attract buy-in from some of the state’s top developers and institutions.

Projects underway downtown include Texas A&M’s new urban research campus, a $95M expansion of the city’s convention center, the redevelopment of the city’s Central Library, Crescent Fort Worth’s $275M mixed-use development, and the expansion of the Omni Fort Worth hotel.

Thousands of new apartments are also underway, with Deco 969, the city’s first high-rise residential tower in 20 years, expected to welcome residents by early next year.

“Fort Worth has the attention of a lot of people,” said Sarah LanCarte, president of Fort Worth-based LanCarte Commercial. “You hear a lot of negative press as it relates to downtowns across the country … but Fort Worth has stayed pretty resilient.” 

In late October, Hillwood acquired a full city block from Oncor, and though the AllianceTexas developer has yet to determine its plans for the property, President Mike Berry said company leaders were eager to be a part of downtown’s next generation of development. 

“We’re really interested and excited about what is going on in Downtown Fort Worth,” Berry said. “There’s a little bit of everything going on right in our immediate vicinity, and as a result, we’re taking a broad view of what the ultimate development opportunity might be.” 

Texas A&M’s new urban research campus has been cited by Sturns and others as the most catalytic project downtown. Developers like Hillwood are looking to capitalize on the endeavor, which will supply the region with a pipeline of tech and engineering labor.

Work on the $150M, eight-story Law and Education Building began in June, and if all goes as planned, the three-building campus will be complete by 2027. The Texas A&M School of Law has been in Fort Worth for 10 years, but the urban research campus will significantly expand its presence in the city. 

“There is this interest in innovation and interest in what the future will look like,” Vice President for Professional Schools and Programs Bobby Ahdieh said of the university’s decision to double down on Fort Worth. “A&M thought that this is the place for us to be located in terms of building that story.”


The campus will be a Tier 1 research university and is expected to fill workforce gaps in nursing, medical technology and other industries through collaboration with the private sector. Students will work alongside private sector tenants in the Research and Innovation building, which is in the design phase. 

The colocation of students and industry on campus is intended to close the so-called Valley of Death, the idea that innovations developed within a university often fail to be commercialized, Ahdieh said.

“There’s often a perceived tension between the ivory tower and practical application,” he said. “The reality is that huge swaths of what we do in higher ed have very direct — or, even if indirect, pretty rapid — impact on industry and on economic growth and development and innovation.” 

Earlier this year, the school signed a memorandum of understanding with aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin to discuss the joint operation of an on-site training and research facility. MOUs with defense technology company Elbit Systems America and eye care manufacturer Alcon, both of which have their U.S. headquarters in Fort Worth, are also in the works. 

Others are expected to join in the initiative, with the prospects around hiring, training, and advancing research and development too good a deal to pass up. 

“On the academic side, there’s lots of enthusiasm,” Ahdieh said. “On the industry side, there’s a recognition that … physical proximity and colocation on campus has the potential to do a great deal of work.” 

While dirt has turned at the Texas A&M site and others, a perilous capital markets environment could impede efforts downtown. Hillwood is in no rush to break ground on its property, most of which is surface parking, and is waiting to see how other developments perform before deciding what it wants to build.

“The environment we are in today, with high construction costs and high interest rates, make new development challenging,” Berry said. “You have to make sure whatever you build, you can get the rents and you can underwrite the project in a way that you can support the economics.” 

Office buildings have been hit especially hard by the loss of downtown foot traffic, spurring a trend of residential conversions that is unfolding across most major metros, including Downtown Dallas.

Sturns isn’t entirely against new office developments downtown as long as they are high-quality and complement adjacent uses.

“It’s really important that we strike a balance on [office] right now,” he said. “We have to factor in where the capital markets are, but I think the fact that Fort Worth didn’t get overdeveloped on office earlier has in many ways safeguarded us against the issues other communities are facing.”

Fort Worth has yet to grow to the point where bureaucracy impedes progress, and its competitive advantage over Dallas and other sister cities is highly predicated on its ease of doing business.

Ensuring the city preserves its small-town feel even amid historic growth is something Sturns said he thinks about often. His office is working closely with the development services team to streamline its permitting processes as well as with the local chamber of commerce to create a support system for new businesses.

These types of initiatives and partnerships will be critical to the success of Fort Worth as it enters its next era of growth, LanCarte said.

“We have to be careful, and we have to get it right,” she said. “With growth comes challenges, but we have to address it because it’s only going to get more difficult.”