How Fort Worth Can Keep Up With The Texas Boom
For its residents and those who love it, Fort Worth has always been Dallas’ laid-back, more classically Texan cousin. But as the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has become one of the fastest-growing urban centers in the nation, the city faces a rockier growth path than its neighbor to the east.
Many of the corporate relocations and much of the job growth in North Texas have been concentrated within Dallas and the corridor of towns stretching north along Route 75. With nearly a million people and a strong cultural draw, Fort Worth has the potential to reap the gains being felt across North Texas, including office, industrial and multifamily development. How the city will grow, and how it will grow responsibly, though, are open questions.
To understand the landscape of Fort Worth more deeply, Bisnow spoke to Chris Powers at Fort Capital, a Fort Worth-based real estate private equity firm, and Detra Whitmore of public transit authority Trinity Metro.
Hear more from Powers and Whitmore at Bisnow’s Fort Worth State of the Market event on March 9. Register here and use the code SAVE20 to save 20% on your ticket and get the inside scoop on all of the opportunities in the Fort Worth market before the news hits headlines.
Chris Powers is the founder and CEO of Fort Capital and has been investing in real estate in and around Fort Worth since 2005, including in office, industrial and multifamily properties.
Bisnow: Where do you think the opportunities for investment are in Fort Worth, and where is the city struggling?
Powers: What excites me most about Fort Worth is that it’s in Texas. The Metroplex is an incredibly desirable area, and we’re perfectly positioned to capture a ton of upside if we choose to take it.
My concern is that the city hasn’t kept up with the momentum of its neighbors. Though some of our outlying areas are booming, the city proper has seen multifamily rents trending negative, land prices plateauing since 2017 and little job growth over the last decade.
All of that means Fort Worth is cheaper today than it was just a few years ago. Prices are settling, so it’s a great time to buy into the city. From an industrial standpoint, it’s extremely well-located, so as an investor, I’m bullish on Fort Worth and its future. But where I’m more of a bear is the fact that there’s no signal that the city is getting closer to landing the big office tenants or bringing in the high-paying jobs and sales tax revenue that we’re seeing transform places like Plano, Frisco and McKinney.
Bisnow: What needs to happen to help Fort Worth capture that upside?
Powers: I hope to see the city’s leaders ultimately work more closely with partners in the business community. It would be great to see our legacy infrastructure get replaced. Take a project like Panther Island, which is more than 20 years in the making, but even just the bridges to the island are likely going to be delayed for another three or four years. Remaking Fort Worth isn’t the job of any one person; it’s everybody’s job.
So many people I talk to now say they wish they could live in Fort Worth, but it’s just not where the jobs are. Fort Worth has amazing people, it has culture, it has the Stockyards, it has great museums. It has that ‘it’ factor. I love this city more than anything. But I feel like a parent that wants their children to grow up right. It can’t just be roses and candy: We have to face the hard facts.
Detra Whitmore is vice president of customer experience for Trinity Metro, a transit agency that serves the city of Fort Worth and its suburbs in surrounding Tarrant County.
Bisnow: The population of North Texas is booming. How does Trinity Metro plan to meet the demand of new Fort Worth residents?
Whitmore: We are looking at a number of new options to meet the mobility needs of our residents. We currently have four Zip Zones, which are on-demand ride-share services that serve business hubs, medical facilities and grocery stores. We are also in the process of redesigning our bus system, which will be focused on a “walk more, wait less” concept, which is based on feedback we received from the community.
We’re also working on bus rapid transit in our highest-ridership area along East Lancaster Avenue. This would be similar to the light rail system with dedicated lanes, stations in the center of the road and a platform ticket validation area to help speed up the boarding process.
Bisnow: Has there been an increase in transit-oriented development in the Fort Worth area?
Whitmore: There has been more TOD in the area, and I expect this trend to continue. When we built our TEXRail commuter rail line between downtown Fort Worth and DFW International Airport, that project alone generated more than $240M in TOD. In Grapevine, where one of our TEXRail stations is, the city invested in $105M of TOD, including a hotel and shops and dining by the rail station.
In North Richland Hills, we have two stations and the city has spent $137M on development, which includes 850 residential units, townhomes and two mixed-use projects. They have really embraced building around transit to make it more appealing to their residents, and we’re anticipating the same thing will happen along the East Lancaster corridor when we bring in our bus rapid transit line.
Bisnow: What has Trinity Metro's response been to the coronavirus pandemic?
Whitmore: During the pandemic, we discovered that trust and safety were the most important factors for riders. To that end, we enhanced our cleaning and disinfecting protocols, added hand sanitizer dispensers to buses and trains, and installed safety shields between the drivers and the fare box to give our riders a more contactless experience. We also marked off some of the seats on buses and trains to encourage social distancing.
We also had help from volunteers from Transit Alliance and Tarrant County College who sewed over 600 masks for our employees, and the federal Transportation Alliance sent us 7,500 masks, which we shared with our customers. Finally, our Delivering You Safely campaign will be partnering with Tarrant County to offer free rides to vaccination sites.
This article was produced by Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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