STAR-TELEGRAM: $55 million Panther Island community taking shape in Fort Worth
For years, it seemed as if the Panther Island project was going nowhere.
While land was being purchased and buildings demolished to make way for the $910 million flood control and economic development project, sometimes it was hard to imagine if it would ever be built — much less what it might look like. That won’t be a problem in 2018.
Work on all three of the project’s landmark bridges — White Settlement Road and Henderson Street and North Main Street — will pick up speed. On the White Settlement bridge, workers will complete pouring concrete in its eight signature v-piers and begin erecting the rest of the superstructure.
During the first quarter of 2018, construction on the $55 million, 300-unit Encore Panther Island community is expected to begin. Besides being the first private development, it also will straddle the first section of one of the interior canals. Construction on the canal is expected to begin next year, too.
Work on the valley storage areas to hold floodwaters will continue. The first phase of the excavation in Gateway Park in east Fort Worth will be completed and a trail reopened. (Enough dirt was removed — 1.5 million cubic yards — to fill 40 percent of AT&T Stadium.) Similar work in Riverside Park on the city’s north side will wrap up. A portion of Riverside Park that’s been closed since 2016 will reopen.
Why it’s important
Once called Trinity Uptown, Panther Island is part of a massive public works project that spans 1,800 acres on the city’s north and east sides. When it is completed, it will create an 800-acre island on the north side that includes an urban lake. It would compare with the size of Fort Worth’s central business district.
While the project has been criticized by its opponents and some lawmakers as a boondoggle, it received a major boost in 2016 when Congress authorized up to $526 million in funding for Panther Island when approving $5 billion in water projects proposed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
Community leaders see Panther Island as a way to create a walkable, livable community that, with its 12 miles of urban waterfront and more than 10,000 residences, would rival other parts of town in cultural relevance. Panther Island was included in the city’s pitch for the $5 billion Amazon headquarters.
Finding the money to pay for Panther Island has been an issue since it was first imagined in the early 2000s.
A major hurdle was cleared in 2016 when Congress authorized the $526 million. By 2017, the project had already received at least $53 million from the Army Corps of Engineers and $50 million in federal highway dollars. The rest of the money spent on the project has been from local and state stakeholders.
Crucial to Panther Island staying on track is making sure the money spigot isn’t cut off. A key player will be U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, who has led the fight for Panther Island on Capitol Hill.
Keep an eye out to see if developers push the city to allow Panther Island buildings to go above and beyond the five-story limit included in current plans. And, finally, don’t be surprised if there is movement on efforts to save LaGrave Field, which is located along the Trinity River and considered a showpiece within the project.