Panther Island developer runs into setback; in process of dismantling garage

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The most visible sign of private development on Panther Island has encountered a serious setback and is being dismantled.

Dallas-based developer Encore Enterprises Inc. is the midst of dismantling the parking garage for a 300-unit multi-family development it plans to build on Panther Island, the developer said.

Encore Panther Island was highly ballyhooed when it was announced in 2016 because it would become the first private development on Panther Island, the centerpiece of the $1.17 billion Trinity River Vision Authority project aimed at improving control and “creating an urban waterfront community north of downtown,“ according to a city of Fort Worth news release.

Ground was broken for the Encore development in May 2018.

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The garage appeared to be nearly complete when posters on an online architectural forum began to notice that the garage was being disassembled.

“During the construction of our parking garage for our Panther Island multi-family development, our contractor encountered movement in a portion of the foundation for the structure,” Encore said in a statement.

With safety being of the utmost concern, “we immediately ceased construction, closed off the area to pedestrians and consulted with out engineers, insurance providers and other project design consultants to determine the source of the movement and devise the best process to deconstruct the parking garage in order to relieve the foundation load,” Encore stated.

The process is expected to be complete the week of July 15.

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Encore said it would conduct a forensic analysis of the foundation and structural components to “allow proper and safe reconstruction of the parking garage.

“We take the integrity of our development very seriously and keeping both our construction works and pedestrians safe is our highest priority,” the company stated.

The development is to be built on 3.45 acres along the planned canals of Panther Island.

Among the amenities for residents will be waterfront balconies, an infinity pool with cascading waterfalls and a top-floor lounge offering featuring views of downtown. The development will be built along the first segment of interconnected canals that will wind throughout the island.

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At the time of announcement of Encore Panther Island, TRVA Executive Director J.D. Granger said the Encore project would be the model of the type of significant mixed-used development that will occur on Panther Island, also known as the Central City project.

Panther Island, originally dubbed Trinity River Vision, is envisioned to have a riverwalk, a lake and canals as well as entertainment district and multi-family residential development

“The TRVA Development Committee is excited about Encore’s announcement of this magnificent project,” Granger said. “The section of riverwalk that winds through the middle of Encore’s project will connect beautifully to Fort Worth’s most progressive mixed-use, high-density district and is a great snapshot of our future.”

But since 2016, the Panther Island project has been beset by a series of problems and setbacks.

The same year Encore announced its development, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers endorsed the Panther Island project, opening the door for federal funding of $526 million to dig a 1.5-mile bypass channel on the Trinity River north of the Tarrant County Courthouse. That channel would add flood control protection as well as carve out an 800-acre center island, which would create waterfront economic development opportunities.

But the project has failed to attract a federal appropriation for the past three consecutive funding cycles. The Trump administration’s 2020 funding priorities for flood control and water projects did not include Panther Island.

Should Congress follow this recommendation and omit Panther Island from its Corps appropriation, this would be the fourth consecutive funding cycle that the project has been overlooked.

Yet, TRVA’s budget includes $26 million in federal funding in 2020 and another $35 million federal dollars for 2021.

At the same time, three bridges are intended to connect to Panther Island are a year beyond the original completion date. If construction meets the current schedule, the bridges will be two- to three-years behind the 2018 completion date.

There is currently no schedule for completion date because the bridge contractor claims that design flaws have stymied construction, according to a contractor representative.

Freese and Nichols, the engineering firm, has denied that there have been major design problems.

The Texas Department of Transportation, a partner with the city of Fort Worth for management of bridge construction, has acknowledged design flaws that interrupted progress in 2016.

Along with the city and TxDOT, Tarrant County and the Tarrant Regional Water District are partners in the Panther Island development. The TRVA, a subsidiary of the water district, is management agency for the project.

Due to problems with obtaining federal funds, TRVA paid for an independent consulting firm to do a comprehensive review of the Panther Island project, including management and oversight. The review by Dallas-based Riveron is complete and was supposed to be presented July 10.

But the presentation was postponed at the direction of TRVA President G.K. Maenius, who is also the administrator of Tarrant County, to give board members and staffers within the partner agencies time to review the approximately 90-page report for possible errors and omissions.

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