Council Report: Fort Worth approves plan to oversee Panther Island economic development


The Fort Worth City Council voted at last night’s meeting to oversee economic development initiatives relating to the Trinity River Vision project as recommended by a recent report from a consulting group.

After the $1.17 billion project failed to receive federal funds in the latest federal budget, the partners in the project, the Tarrant Regional Water District, Tarrant County, Streams & Valleys and the City of Fort Worth, hired a consulting group to examine the project. Among the recommendations was that the real estate development segment of the project should be spun off.

The city will now be in charge of that part of the project and the city council vote designated the Fort Worth Local Development Corp. to oversee the economic development initiatives related to the project.

“I don’t believe it is unreasonable to ask for management adjustments, adopting best practices and increased transparency so the project can decrease costs, ensure our best opportunity for federal funding and ultimately be completed,” District 3 Councilman Brian Byrd said.

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The Trinity Uptown Peripheral Zone will now be known as the Panther Island Peripheral Zone, as the result of an ordinance passed by the Fort Worth City Council at its Tuesday meeting.

In 2010 the city council adopted an ordinance to create the Trinity Uptown Peripheral Zones District to promote development of an urban waterfront district as envisioned in the Trinity Uptown Plan. In May 2014 the project name was changed from Trinity Uptown to Panther Island to recognize the City of Fort Worth’s past as “Panther City.”

In 2016 the name of the form based zoning district and all related references in the City Code was changed from Trinity Uptown to Panther Island to retain consistency with the project, but a similar change was not made to the Trinity Uptown Peripheral Zones Design Overlay. Therefore, city officials deemed a change in the name was necessary to be consistent with the Panther Island Form-Based Code.

Mayor Betsy Price had called for the comprehensive review last fall after the Panther Island project had again failed to receive a federal appropriation for rerouting the Trinity River as part of the project’s massive flood protection phase.

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Price also said last year she had learned from officials in Washington, D.C., that the project may have been snubbed for federal funding because it has both flood control and economic development aspects.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers endorsed the project in 2016, 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. Besides enhanced flood control protection, the channel would establish an 800-acre center island, which in turn would offer waterfront economic development opportunities.

But the project has only been appropriated about $60 million in federal funds so far and prospects for funding continue to appear dismal, at least in the short-term.

The Corps confirmed in April that 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 next Corps appropriation, it would mark the fourth consecutive funding cycle that the project has been overlooked.

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

About $324 million in local tax money has already been spent on the project, including a $200 loan from the TRWD. Local funds are being stretched through this fiscal year to keep the project solvent.

The TRVA board agreed to conduct the comprehensive review late last year. The board awarded Riveron a contract for $466,222 in April to spend about three months examining all aspects of the plan that is also known as the Central City project. into a nonprofit organization. – This report includes material from the FWBP archives.