Icon of the Year: Growth, growth and more growth

Mayor Betsy Price lends a hand at a Clearfork construction site.  

Icon of the Year for 2016?

For Icon of the Year, we look for people, events, projects or trends that have been the hallmark of a particular year. In 2015, we choose the Frost Bank tower now under construction in downtown Fort Worth. For 2016, here are plenty of candidates.

• The first large development set for the Trinity River Vision project.

• Another river development, Left Bank has gone vertical and will bring a full-service grocery close to downtown.

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• The new Stockyards development is moving forward, taking Fort Worth’s storied history into the future.

• Another event near and dear to Fort Worth’s history is the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. The new multipurpose arena underway in the Cultural District will help revitalize that cultural touchstone.

• The city’s first Whole Foods market opened in the Waterside development, itself an innovative project.

• Nearby, the Clearfork development is moving forward, with a mix of retail, commercial and office projects taking shape.

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• Near TCU, the WestBend development is expanding as its mix of commercial and retail.

• In the Alliance area, plenty of new construction on office, retail and industrial projects are taking shape, including a new Buc-ee’s and continued plans for the Champions Circle development.

• To the east, voters in Arlington approved plans for a new Ranger ballpark and work is beginning on Texas Live!, an entertainment district surrounding the ballpark.

• In center city Fort Worth, new buildings are either under construction or have opened housing new or existing banks: Ciera, Regions, American National Bank & Trust and First Financial.

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• South on the Chisholm Trail Parkway, ground will soon be broken for the new Tarleton State University campus, part of an explosion of growth in that area.

• To the west, the Walsh Ranch is turning dirt, a project that will turn 7,267 acres into a commercial and residential development with as many as 15,000 homes.

• Closer to the central city, developments along the Lancaster corridor continue.

• On the east side, ground was recently broken for a new YMCA, a signal that the rebirth of that area continues.

And there are many other projects, either underway or on the horizon.

So, what to choose as Icon of the Year? How about all of the above? All these projects will be changing the face of Fort Worth to the north, south, east and west.

The growth of Fort Worth and how to handle it is one of the key concerns of Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke.

“Growth is a sign the community is attractive to new businesses and a lot of families and individuals want to relocate there,” Cooke said at a November meeting of the Fort Worth Chamber Combined Area Councils.

Cooke said that projections have Fort Worth with a population of about 1.4 million by 2040. He said the city, the nation’s 16th largest with a current population of around 800,000, is growing at a rate of about 20,000-25,000 per year.

“This is an area that is going to continue to grow, and there are some challenges that come with that,” he said.

Challenges, yes. But opportunities for innovation as well. At Trademark Property’s Waterside development, the developer is implementing a Conscious Place initiative that builds community aspects into the place for commerce.

“We created our Conscious Place initiative to assign a higher purpose to retail and mixed-use properties,” said Terry Montesi, CEO at Fort Worth-based Trademark Property. “[The retail spaces] aren’t just for shopping, working and living; they are part of the community, and ultimately part of people’s lives. We want to ensure that our properties are active, engaged and contributing to the betterment of the community.”

A key component of the Conscious Place initiative at Waterside is The Grove, a public space designed around several heritage trees and loaded with amenities for any visitor, such as shaded outdoor seating venues with free Wi-Fi, play areas, a 6,600-gallon rainwater cistern used to irrigate drought-resistant landscaping, public art, a community pavilion and a community promotion shed available for use by community and nonprofit organizations.

The Grove also features Waterside’s micro-restaurants, which were created to support local entrepreneurs by offering smaller spaces, lower startup costs, shorter-term leases and community seating.

“You think about a food truck operator may want to get into bricks and mortar business, or a chef, or a GM of a restaurant may want to be an entrepreneur and wants to try but doesn’t have a lot of money,” said Montesi. “This is a way to support local and artisan food and beverage.”’

Meanwhile, at the nearby Clearfork development, buildings are going up that will reframe Fort Worth retail and corporate landscape. High-end retailer Neiman Marcus has vacated its longtime Ridgmar Mall location for a new building at Clearfork.

These developments are indicative of a vibrant and prosperous community, but City Manager Cooke noted in his speech that just because Fort Worth is growing today, nothing should be taken for granted. He cited Detroit, where the Motor City had a population of 1.8 million in 1950 and has 600,000 today.

“The success and prosperity of a city is not guaranteed,” he said.

He assured the crowd that Fort Worth is not headed in that direction. But, he added, there is always work to be done to keep moving forward.

For now though, that growth – evident to the north, south, east and west – is strong and significant enough to be named Icon of the Year.

– This report contains material from the Fort Worth Business Press archives.