The keynote is progress as Downtown Fort Worth Inc. holds annual meeting

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Downtown Fort Worth Inc. held its 40th annual meeting Wednesday at the Fort Worth Convention Center and the program was a celebration of Fort Worth’s growth and progress, past and future.

A record crowd of 600 heard keynote speaker Scott Page of Interface Studio, LLC, talk about “Plan 2033,” the next update of Downtown Fort Worth’s 10-Year Strategic Action Plan.

Page urged attendees to ask themselves what they’d like to see more of in downtown Fort Worth and encouraged them to scan a barcode on a postcard at their seats to participate in a survey to be used in the formulation of Plan 2033.

Page said the best downtowns are ones that attract families and their pets, making residents and businesses feel comfortable alongside each other. He mentioned Grand Rapids, Michigan. as an example of forward thinking, describing its new concept of ground floor apartments mixed in among businesses.

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Page stressed the importance of turning downtowns into neighborhoods. Cities need to consider size and price range in pursuing residential development, he said, as well as building more residences next to each other to create a neighborhood feel.

“Design parks to say, ‘Yes, we want kids downtown, too,’” he said. “I want to be able to walk to a neighbor’s, and I want to send my kids out without worrying about them getting hit by a car.”

He said some downtowns suffer from “blahzas,” sections that do not advance the goal of modernizing the area. He gave the crowd a “homework assignment” to search for such areas when they visit other cities.

“I want you to point it out and yell ‘blahza,’” he said.

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Page said downtown Atlanta has 35 acres of blahza. He praised areas such as a rarely used access street in Philadelphia that was turned into a bustling plaza.

“It’s important to imagine what these spaces can be,” he said. “Even the scale of a parking space can make a difference.”

He praised Fort Worth and other cities that utilize events to help promote downtowns as popular destinations.

“The most cost-effective way to boost economic development is to have more events,” he said.

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Supporting small businesses is a must, he said, particularly those owned by women and minorities.

“Great downtowns don’t happen by accident. It is the result of great planning and hard work,” Page said. “We really need all of your voices in this process.”

Nina Petty, chair of Downtown Fort Worth Inc.’s festival and events advisory committee, excited the crowd with a reminder that the Main Street Arts Festival returned this weekend after a two-year hiatus resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re baaaack!” Petty exclaimed. “It’s certainly a treat to welcome everyone back to this Fort Worth tradition this year.”

Petty also mentioned the GM Financial Parade of Lights, which will be held Nov. 20 at 6 p.m.

And, of course, the legendary Cliburn International Piano Competition is scheduled for June 2-18 at the Van Cliburn Concert Hall at TCU and Bass Performance Hall. The 16th version of the prestigious competition that is held every four years in Fort Worth will feature 30 of the world’s finest pianists aged 18-30.

Kenny Broberg, silver medalist from the 2017 Cliburn competition, entertained the crowd with a stirring performance.

“If you like poker, you should come. All these competitors are all in,”

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker was one of several speakers at the meeting to spotlight signficant developments in the city, giving special mention the planned expansion of the Texas A&M School of Law.

“I’m a Longhorn, but I’m gonna whoop anyway,” the University of Texas graduate said with a chuckle. “It will truly be a game changer for all of us.”

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