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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Panther Island: Mayor, council look at study before re-authorizing project’s tax district

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price has talked directly with the White House about the prospects for funding for the Trinity River Vision plan and, as a result, the city is working to determine how best to move forward the $1.1 billion project.

One possible move would be to conduct an audit of the project before re-authorizing the special taxing district for the area.

“The mayor has gone to Washington, D.C. and had direct conversations with the Office of Management and Budget and the White House so she can … get a confidence level on the amount of federal funds we are going to get,” David Cooke, Fort Worth city manager, said after the third annual City Manager’s Update luncheon before the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

After reports a few weeks back that the massive flood and redevelopment project was not included in the most recent budget, city and area leaders have voiced concern about the massive project.

“So there is some question as to how much of the federal funds are going to come to Fort Worth for the project,” Cooke said.

The mayor, he said, has seen some indication that the project might have to be scaled back “to just the very core flood control pieces of the project.”

But that raises other questions, Cooke said.

“So how much is that?,” he said, “And what is the timetable in which the money would be coming?

“That’s raised the question that we’re talking about now and that’s what would require the scaleback [on the project],” he said.

Following Tuesday’s City Council work session, several council members said they wanted a review of the project before the members approve an extension to the Tax Increment Financing district in the area.

“We decided as a council before we authorize the TIF extension that this is a good point in time for a review of the project,” said District 2 Councilman Carlos Flores. “If there are questions that council needs to address, now is the time to do it.”

The council’s decision to seek the review comes in response to the city’s notification that federal funding for the massive Panther Island project is not available this year. Much of the project is in District 2.

“This is about gathering as much information as possible before going ahead with the TIF extension,” he said.

A timetable for the review has not been determined nor has it been decided who will conduct the review, he said.

In May, voters approved a $250 million bond issue to help fund the project, known as the Panther Island project. The project is run by the Tarrant Regional Water District and the Trinity River Vision Authority. The plan would double the size of downtown to the north, adding a river walk, an urban lake and create a swath of developable land.

The three bridges currently under construction will be complete next year, he said, then the channels will need to be dug.

“The city wants to make sure we can continue the project,” Cooke said, “deliver it to the public – what we’ve been talking about for years and years – and there’s just some indication that we’re not get the full amount of the federal funding and that would require scaling it back.”

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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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