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Top stories for 2014

🕐 6 min read

Robert Francis

rfrancis@bizpress.net

1. Voters, city approve new arena It’s been talked about for years, but to finally get the new arena at the Will Rogers Memorial Center on the schedule is a big deal for Fort Worth, the Stock Show and Rodeo and the Cultural District. Nonprofit Event Facilities Fort Worth commits to raising half the $450 million cost and capping the public expense at $225 million.

2. Chisholm Trail Parkway opens Another project that has been talked about for years. It finally opened and with it has been a flood of new developments along the parkway and the Trinity River, among them Clearfork and Waterside. Waterside landed Fort Worth’s first Whole Foods Market and Clearfork will be the new home of Fort Worth’s Neiman Marcus store.

3. Fort Worth Stockyards TIF approved If there is one enduring symbol of Fort Worth it is the Stockyards. No surprise there was plenty of controversy when plans were announced for new development near one of Fort Worth’s (no pun intended) sacred cows. But by the end of the year, there was enough agreement that the City Council approved a tax increment finance district plan to move development forward. 4. American Airlines-US Airways merger approved It’s Fort Worth’s largest employer and since its merger was approved in December 2013, the airline has produced record profits, paid its first dividend since 1980 and announced a $1 billion share buyback plan. The shares have more than doubled in the past 12 months. “In 2014, the team accomplished great things, and that gives us a lot of confidence,” Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said in an interview. “What we are now in the position to do is to go take the product up to a level that is better than either airline had in place.” At the end of 2014, American will have received about 100 new aircraft while retiring older planes, swaps the carrier said will give it the youngest fleet among its U.S. peers with an average age of 12.3 years. It will add 112 new planes next year, 84 in 2016 and about 300 more through 2022. Most of the new planes will have seat-back video screens throughout.

5. Speaking of aviation and transportation, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport celebrated its 40th anniversary and also snagged two nonstop routes on the world’s largest airplane, the Airbus A380: D/FW to Dubai aboard Emirates Airline, and D/FW to Sydney, Australia, aboard Qantas. D/FW Airport CEO Sean Donohue has made international travel a priority since taking over in 2013. Flights to Asia have increased with American Airlines adding service to Hong Kong and Shanghai. The airport is hoping to add direct flights to Beijing in the near future. And still speaking of aviation, have you checked out what’s going on at Meacham Field?

6. Trinity Uptown bridge construction begins Critics may call them “Bridges to Nowhere” but they’re taking shape. The Trinity River Vision project has started construction on the bridges being built on Henderson Street, North Main Street and White Settlement Road. Construction on the $65 million project is expected to end by early 2018.

7. How ‘bout them Frogs? Texas Christian University used to look up to everyone but Rice University in football. No longer. Ranked as high as No. 3, TCU’s football team has hopped a long way.

8. North Tarrant Express While the Chisholm Trail Parkway opened up southwest Fort Worth, the $2.5 billion North Tarrant Express project finally ended. The makeover of Loop 820 and Texas 121/183 added toll lanes, with prices that change based on congestion.

9. RadioShack gets out of tune While there was a lot of good news in the Fort Worth economy, the longtime Fort Worth electronics retailer has been struggling. Despite hiring an aggressive, seasoned CEO, Joseph Magnacca, and gaining some positive press via its marketing/advertising efforts, RadioShack’s troubles continue to mount as it spars with lenders and its losses grow. The “B” word, as in bankruptcy, has made more than one appearance in discussions of the company’s financial future.

10. Let’s look north Let’s face it, where would modern Fort Worth be without the AllianceTexas development and the continuing growth to the north? Alliance celebrated 20 years in 2014 and there was a lot to celebrate. From large industrial spaces to Texas Motor Speedway to new retail and mixed-use developments in and around the area, the once controversial development has left most naysayers too busy shopping at Alliance Town Center to raise their voice.

Leftovers. That’s the top 10, but as always, there are conspicuous absences from the top 10. In no particular order, here are some notable events:

• Wendy Davis runs for governor as Democrats planned to turn Texas ‘blue’ How did it go? Well, by the end of the year, Davis had been named winner of Texas Monthly Magazine’s Bum Steer award. But few observers count Davis out. • Lockheed’s F-35 It’s had its ups and downs, but Lockheed’s F-35 cleared several milestones this year that indicated the high-tech plane, built here in Fort Worth, is gaining traction. In July, Pentagon and industry officials celebrated in Fort Worth as the first two of the 72 planes Australia has ordered rolled off the assembly line. The completion of the two planes was a relief for defense officials eager to woo international customers for the next-generation fighter jet. • Toyota moves to Plano How is that related to Fort Worth? For economic development officials, all of North Texas is suddenly a big player among major corporations. • Ebola First, a Fort Worth doctor, Dr. Kent Brantly, doing work in Liberia came down with the disease and survived. He continues his work against the disease. Then a patient at a Dallas hospital run by Arlington-based Texas Health Resources became ground zero for Ebola in the U.S. Then one of that patient’s nurses, Nina Pham, a Texas Christian University graduate, also became an Ebola patient and survived. • After over a year of rumors and whispers, Chesapeake Energy left the tower that bore its name on the western edge of downtown Fort Worth. Hines of Houston bought the 14-story building and the newly-reinvigorated Pier 1 became the sole tenant. • Cowboys, Cowboys, Cowboys There was a time when a good, maybe great Dallas Cowboys season wouldn’t be news. That would be the last millennium, however. • Left Bank Dallas developer Centergy Retail runs into significant obstacles in its plan to convert major West Seventh Street frontage into mixed-use development with a luxury hotel fronting the Trinity River. • Sundance Square Following up on last year’s opening of the plaza, Sundance Square and downtown Fort Worth in general have been on a hot streak. Cheesecake Factory anyone? • WestBend Trademark’s development on University Drive, sidelined by the recession, started up full force this year. • Food Fort Worth’s first Food & Wine Festival appeared to be a culinary success consistent with the city’s continuing growth as a “foodie” scene. • Golfing, drinking Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. acquires the historic Glen Garden Country Club and plan to turn it into a distillery and event center. • Goodbye We lost some major contributors this year. One, former Mayor Bob Bolen, was a key architect behind Fort Worth’s growth at Alliance. Another, Holt Hickman, kept Fort Worth focused on its past with his support of the Fort Worth Stockyards. And, at the end of the year, we lost Susan Halsey, a Jackson Walker attorney who contributed in many ways, most recently as chairwoman of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. We also lost Val Wilkie, longtime leader at the Sid W. Richardson Foundation.

A. Lee Graham, Betty Dillard, Scott Nishimura, Lisa Logan and Bill Thompson contributed to this report.   

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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