After over a decade of prep work, locals are finally starting to see some of Panther Island’s renderings coming to fruition.
by Samantha Calimbahin
May 3, 2021
The Panther Island project has been going on for well over a decade now, and in that time frame, has also become the brunt of both praise and critique from those anxiously awaiting the promised San Antonio-style riverwalk and surrounding developments illustrated in those fancy renderings. In April, what’s considered the first vertical progress on the project finally opened to traffic — the White Settlement Bridge, one of three V-pier bridges offering connectivity to the 800-acre district.
But just along North Main Street, behind chain-link fences in the shadow of the five-story Encore Panther Island apartment complex, the fun part of the project — the part everyone’s been waiting for — remains hidden from the public eye.
Well, a 225-foot-long portion of it anyway.
Nestled right in the center of Encore Panther Island is the first part of the Panther Island Riverwalk, now filled with water as it waits to join the rest of what will be about 1.75 miles of canal running along the district.
But aside from just giving locals something fun to enjoy, those spearheading the project have long touted the canal’s functional purpose — to serve as the main stormwater arterials for the City of Fort Worth and allow for the removal of outdated levees, replacing them with better flood protection via the canal.
“Locals will never know it,” JD Granger, executive director of Panther Island Central City Flood Project, says. “Everyone’s walking down with a margarita — might fall in because you’re drunk — [and] they just think it’s pretty. But actually, it serves a very important purpose.”
The Panther Island project hasn’t gone on without opposition, however, as many remain critical over its hefty price tag (it’s part of the $1.16 billion Central City Flood Project, of which $29 million for utility work is coming from the public), and simply the fact that everything’s taking so long.
To that, Granger has two responses: Regarding the cost, funding for the Panther Island Riverwalk is coming from investors and developers who are paying the Tarrant Regional Water District the amount they would essentially pay to mitigate the stormwater runoff they would create. On the amount of time it’s taken to see things go vertical, Granger cites, in part, the need to clean up the “environmental hot mess” that the formerly industrial property used to be, previously filled with hazardous chemicals like lead and ammonia.
“We were having to buy the property, move the property, demo the property, do the environmental cleanup — all of that had to take place before the bridges could even start,” Granger says, adding that the amount of hazardous materials removed totaled to about 330,000 tons.
But now that that’s out of the way, the public can finally start to see some renderings coming to fruition. The other two bridges at North Main and Henderson streets and Encore Panther Island are expected to open before the end of the year. After that, development will move east to the lot across the street, where there has been strong interest for a hotel.