Plans for a new City Hall for Fort Worth have been knocked around for years, maybe even decades. On Dec. 2, city officials announced a plan that – if it moves forward – could see a new City Hall take shape in two years.
The City of Fort Worth laid out plans to purchase 100 Energy Way, formerly the Pier 1 headquarters located on the west edge of downtown. The city is conducting due diligence on the ‘Class A’ office space prior to the purchase, which is on track to be completed by the end of the year. The final transaction is expected to be completed by February 2021. The Fort Worth City Council will vote on the plan at its Dec. 15 meeting.
“As we have begun to plan for the renovation of City Hall, the cost-savings provided by the purchase of this building is simply too significant to pass up,” said Mayor Betsy Price. “This is a prudent financial decision, and I am proud of the City of Fort Worth’s fiscal responsibility, forward thinking and strategic investment.”
In August 2019, the city discussed preliminary plans for a large new eight-story municipal complex and central library along Lancaster Avenue. Cost estimates for construction of a new municipal complex were greater than $200 million, while the purchase price for the new property will result in substantial cost savings in the tens of millions, will not require a bond issue and will allow the city to consolidate much faster.
“This purchase is a more economical solution to meet the space needs of the 13th largest city, as well as allow for more city services to be in one convenient location for residents,” said City Manager David Cooke. “While the purchase of an existing property was not part of the city’s original plan, purchasing this property provides a solution to the city’s real estate needs sooner without new construction and will result in savings for taxpayers for years to come.”
The existing City Hall building has seen several modifications and functional rearrangements over the last 49 years, including completion of the third floor and the removal of the interior water fountain in the atrium. During normal operations, City Hall is the daily workplace for approximately 600 city staff from 13 departments. The current City Hall will be repurposed and remain as a municipal building. Price and Cooke said the current City Hall is required by covenant to be used as a municipal building.
The prospective municipal complex is 409,977 square feet, offering more than 160,000 additional square feet of space compared to the current facility alongside modern amenities and ample parking. The purchase of the new property would move up the timeline for a new City Hall to come online in 2022, several years earlier than construction of a new facility. In addition to the new facility consolidating city operations for a larger presence in a single location and providing increased access for the public, the purchase will bring in lease revenue over the next few years as existing tenants will remain in place. The 20-story building is currently two-thirds vacant, with 143,000 square feet leased and 260,000 square feet available.
“It is because of the city’s commitment to fiscal discipline that we have been able to weather the storm caused by COVID-19, and a big reason we are able to capitalize on such an incredible real estate opportunity,” said Price. “In addition to meeting our growing needs for space and renovation, this new building will enhance our accessibility to the public. I want this new City Hall to belong to all residents of Fort Worth and for everyone to feel welcome.”
The functions that would move to the new location would be from the current City Hall, the West Annex and Gordon Swift locations, the 13th Street annex, the Zipper Annex (except for some operations) and La Gran Plaza leases. The Fort Worth Police Central Division Headquarters (Jones and Hemphill operations) and Police Administrative Support would move into the current City Hall location. Plans for the Fort Worth Central Library will be announced later.
No purchase price was released for the project at the request of the owner, but the amount will likely be released later. The city will use tax notes to purchase the property which is allowed by state law. That will mean the purchase will not be part of a future bond package, said Cooke. In 2008, Pier 1 sold the building to Chesapeake for $104 million. Houston-based real estate developer Hines acquired the building in 2014, then Hertz Investment Group purchased it in 2018. The Duda Paine Architects-designed glass and gray granite building opened in 2004.