Local NewsTaxes & SpendingFort Worth Chooses Consultant to Lead Panther Island Economic Development

The project, first proposed in 2006, is still trying to decide its development direction and has hired a national firm to lead the process.
January 17, 2023
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Panther Island got another boost in its continuing life cycle as Fort Worth and other partners awarded HR&A Advisors Inc. a $560,000 contract to lead the way in determining future plans for the project’s economic development angle.

The city’s economic development director Robert Sturns praised the firm for its expertise and market knowledge as it considers different strategies for developing Panther Island and surrounding districts.

“The pieces are really coming together for Panther Island,” Sturns said in a press release. “Local partners and the business community are making a strong economic development push at the district, but we want to be smart about how we do it.”

Panther Island is a mixed-use development that includes “an envisioned 10,000 housing units and three million square feet of commercial, retail, and educational space,” a canal system, walking trails, a marina, and a houseboat district.

Other local entities involved in the Panther Island project include Tarrant County, the Tarrant Regional Water District, Tarrant County College, the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth, Downtown Fort Worth Inc., and Streams & Valleys.

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The flood control portion of the project is known as Central City, which includes a bypass channel and valley storage sites for excess water.

A year ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers promised $400 million in funding to “complete final design of all project components and construction of the bypass channel.”

The project has its share of detractors too, as it has languished for over 15 years.

When the request for proposal for an economic development consultant was announced by the city in October 2022, former state representative Lon Burnam said he wasn’t surprised because he doesn’t believe the project has ever been centered on flood control.

“If this were really about flood control, they would have approached it differently from the beginning,” Burnam said.

In 2019, a third-party evaluation by Riveron estimated the overall costs of the project to reach $1.2 billion, over $600 million more than when it was first proposed in 2006. The report also cited myriad problems within the project’s financial management, governance, and transparency and recommended significant changes.

HR&A will serve as project manager and lead. Their team will also include civil engineering firm Salcedo Group Inc.; urban planning and design firm Lake Flato; and community engagement and outreach firm K Strategies.

Other similar projects the firm has worked on include Buffalo Bayou in Houston, the Ion Innovation District near Rice University, Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, and the master plan for the University of Texas’ research campus.

HR&A is supposed to begin its work this quarter and should be finished by the end of the year, the city’s press release said. Its work is supposed to include opportunities for community input and engagement.

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.

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