Fort Worth's Growth Story Is Just Beginning
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Fort Worth has some missing elements to solve before it really explodes with development, but that has not stopped several hot neighborhoods from emerging in the last few years. Local stakeholders are quick to point out infrastructure and transportation concerns, but only because they expect Fort Worth to live up to its potential.
When Fort Capital founder and CEO Chris Powers Jr. was a student at Texas Christian University in the mid-2000s, he rarely ventured north of Interstate 30. In the last decade, neighborhoods like the River District, Waterside, Clearfork and Magnolia were still thoughts in developers’ heads.
Now as the city grows, it must answer questions of infrastructure, transportation and improved education.
“Fort Worth is behind other major cities in planning, funding and implementing a multimodal mass transit system,” Fort Worth South Inc. president Paul Paine said. That system would benefit locals and visitors, making Fort Worth more competitive with the rest of the Metroplex for tourism dollars.
Trademark Property senior vice president Edward Manuel thinks the interest Fort Worth has from hoteliers is proof the city is doing a great job answering those growth questions. But Powers thinks many growing pains are yet to be mitigated. Fort Worth’s public school system needs work and it needs better infrastructure from DFW Airport to Fort Worth to appeal to corporate relocations, Powers said.
“But the T is coming, bills are being passed for better infrastructure and many forces are at play to make this happen,” he said.
Powers would like to see more developers embrace Fort Worth’s relatively new zoning category, urban residential.
“The city is still figuring out how the heck it’s going to grow. Now the city and developers need to make UR a huge priority,” Powers said.
Paine thinks the city, and especially Fort Worth South’s home in the hospital district, is missing an alignment with a medical school.
“Residency programs would be huge. We could make this a world-class medical district with that alignment.”
Fort Worth South has already made a lot of progress in the last couple of decades.
In 2008, Fort Worth South Inc. established guidelines to govern development in the 1,400 acres roughly encompassed by I-30, Forest Park Boulevard, Allen Avenue and I-35. The tax increment financing district channeled positive development and made it easier for builders to get loans, Paine said.
Fort Worth is the 17th-largest city in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But because it is a few miles away from the ninth-largest city in the U.S. (Dallas), many overlook the potential of Cowtown.
“People don’t realize we’re one of the largest cities in the U.S. We don’t get treated like that and it takes more of a push to get retailers to come to Fort Worth,” Manuel said.
But times are changing, and many national retailers are taking a hard look at the city.
“We’ll get there soon. These great national retailers want to look at Fort Worth now,” Manuel said.
Trademark’s WestBend has scored many outside-the-box retailers who understand the e-commerce climate, Manuel said. Trademark’s Waterside is anchored by Whole Foods and REI and aims to be a really experiential center, he said.
Many projects on the cusp of completion, such as the T going to DFW Airport and development of cultural districts, will be energizing to the city, Paine said.
Powers thinks with more institutional capital coming to Fort Worth, the city is close to blossoming.
“Fort Capital operates under the thesis that Fort Worth’s day is coming in the not-so-distant future. If this is a nine-inning ball game, I still think we’re in the first inning of a major growth story.”
Hear more from Manuel, Paine and Powers at Bisnow’s Fort Worth State of the Market event on May 25. Get tickets here.