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Friday, January 22, 2021

Former Pier 1 building set to become new Fort Worth City Hall

Fort Worth moved a step closer to a new City Hall as the City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday Dec. 15 to purchase the former Pier 1 headquarters for $69.5 million.

If the sale closes as expected by Feb. 1, the 410,000 square foot Class A high rise at 100 Energy Way on the west edge of downtown could be a new City Hall by 2022.

“This is a legacy vote. Move for approval,” said Dennis Shingleton, Councilman for District 7.

The purchase of the building will be financed with $100 million from two packages of seven-year tax notes – one for $74 million to cover the cost of purchasing the vacant portion of the building and the other for $26 million to buy the rest of the building, which is occupied by various businesses.

District 4 Councilman Cary Moon noted that the city would be paying $158 per square foot for the building. “That’s a very good deal,” he said.  

“I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is in the best interest of the taxpayers,” said District 6 Councilman Jungus Jordan.

“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 when the plan was announced on Dec. 2. “This is a prudent financial decision, and I am proud of the City of Fort Worth’s fiscal responsibility, forward thinking and strategic investment.”

Plans for a new City Hall have been contemplated for several years. The most recent discussion was in August 2019, when officials considered preliminary concepts 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.

“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 when the Pier 1 proposal was first announced. “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 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 Pier 1 purchase will provide a municipal complex with 409,977 square feet of space – an increase of more than 160,000 square feet compared with the current facility – as well as modern amenities and ample parking. The purchase of will move up the timeline for a new City Hall to come online to 2022, several years earlier than construction of a new facility. In addition to 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 include 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.

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.

– additional material from FWBP archives

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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