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Facebook deal sets stage for more Fort Worth growth

🕐 3 min read

In the wind

Facebook’s Fort Worth data center will use wind power from the Shannon wind farm project currently under construction on 17,000 acres in Clay County, about 90 miles away. Facebook says the data center will be 100 percent powered by wind energy.

Facebook worked with Citigroup Energy, Alterra Power Corp. and Starwood Energy Group on the wind project, which should deliver electricity by 2016. The Shannon wind project is currently under construction by Mortenson Construction’s Wind Energy Group. General Electric Co. is supplying 119 wind turbines for the project.

Two months after Fort Worth announced Facebook’s $750 million data center project, city officials call the deal unrivaled in Cowtown history.

“It was probably the most competitive economic development situation we’ve been in,” said Mayor Betsy Price, revealing negotiation details that led the social media giant to plan up to three 250,000-square-foot data centers on the northeast corner of Park Vista Boulevard and State Highway 170 in the AllianceTexas development.

Making her comments at a Sept. 9 breakfast sponsored by Urban Land Institute North Texas and the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth, Price said she and city staff only knew company officials by first name and did not know their identities until they were notified that Fort Worth was chosen.

“They also were the most precise and in-depth group we’ve ever dealt with,” said Jay Chapa, assistant city manager, also speaking at the breakfast.

Yet Fort Worth beat out 76 other municipalities in landing the Facebook project. It marked the latest corporate victory for a city quickly turning heads on a national basis, a point emphasized at a breakfast focused on the city’s strengthening role on the national stage.

“We’re a changing city. Not all of us are getting our AARP cards,” said Price, describing the city as different from recent years when it was “hemorrhaging our young adult population to Dallas or Austin.”

Nowadays, young professionals can find more jobs in medicine and other professions, said Price, citing the newly announced Monty and Tex Moncrief Medical Center as a prime example. UT Southwestern announced the expansion credited to a $25 million gift from Fort Worth oilman W.A. “Tex” Moncrief Jr.

When the campus’ first building reaches completion in September 2016, it will mark UT Southwestern’s first named campus outside Dallas.

“There’s great jobs, great investment in real estate,” Price said.

In what amounted to a condensed State of the City address, Price praised several real estate projects approved or begun in 2014 and 2015. Among those are Cadillac Lofts, on the southeast corner of Main Street and Lancaster Avenue, and phase one of a mixed-use development spearheaded by Catalyst Urban Development calling for 254 multifamily units, 6,000 feet of retail space and a 601-space parking garage.

Price also used the occasion to promote public transportation.

“We’re not ever going to pour enough concrete. We simply have to think about multimodal transportation,” said Price, pointing to the planned TEX Rail system as offering passage to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport no later than 2018.

“I’m going to hold them to that,” Price said of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, or The T, planning TEX Rail to run on a 27-mile corridor and serve 10 stations from downtown Fort Worth, northeast across Tarrant County to Grapevine and into Terminal B at D/FW Airport.

Price acknowledged progress made on Interstate 35W reconstruction north of downtown, but said freeway improvements alone cannot keep up with growing traffic volume. She also admitted some skepticism regarding project completion.

“There are people who think I-35 will never be finished. I might be one of those,” Price said.

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