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Panther Island / Central City News

First Section of the Stormwater Canals Nears Completion

The first of the internal canals on Panther Island is being built now! Pictured is the first section of the larger master-planned canal system for Panther Island currently under construction. The contractor has constructed 98% of this section of the stormwater canal, including both the eastern and western end walls. They are currently working on finalizing the backfill, clean-up and touch-up items through-out the project. Final completion is expected mid-January, 2021. This section of stormwater canal is a public private partnership being built in connection with the first multi-family complex, Encore Panther Island.

Why are the stormwater canals important for the island?

The area of our city directly north of downtown, known now as Panther Island, has historically been zoned light industrial providing warehouses, transportation, light assembly, and outside storage. However, under the City of Fort Worth’s Comprehensive Plan, the area is now zoned to deliver a mixed-use product with as many as 10,000 residential units and 3 million square feet of office, retail and residential development. Although this change in land use and density provides great growth opportunities for our community, it also provides many challenges. The area lacks even the most basic infrastructure needs to serve the growing area. The simplest example (albeit kinda gross!) of the lack of system infrastructure needs can be clearly understood just by considering… ahem.. the need to use the restroom.

Over the decades, the light industrial area may have had only a couple hundred bathrooms; however with the mixed-use density expected, the number of bathrooms that will be built will likely be in the tens of thousands. The area as it exists today is not setup to provide the density that the City of Fort Worth is planning for the area at full buildout. But increased sewer services is but (pun intended) one of the needs. The population numbers the city has planned for the area will likewise increase water, power, and transportation needs.

Another growth related need are infrastructure improvements to the stormwater drainage system to serve the area. This particular need is even more complicated due to the fact that the area is expected to have fully built out blocks similar to downtown Fort Worth. Smart, higher density growth challenges traditional stormwater systems similar to those concrete drains on your street that you have probably lost your tennis ball in. Traditional storm drain systems require detention ponds to function under today’s standards. For those not in the stormwater biz, detention ponds are areas that are dug out to create slightly recessed grassy areas that temporarily fill up under a rain event, but are great for dog parks the remaining 350 days of the year. If that approach was used on the island there would be a large magnitude of weird grassy low lying holes all over the island, hurting the potential density and place making that is expected in the area.

Understanding this system challenge, the working committee, along with city staff and their stormwater consultants, took a step back to see if there was a way to achieve an affordable fully built out neighborhood for Panther Island that would both manage stormwater efficiently and increase the quality of the pedestrian experience. The committee and city staff discovered the best way to achieve this was to create a system of internal canals on Panther Island that double as great pedestrian elements and serve as the main lines for stormwater management.

The stormwater canal system will provide needed flood protection, containing up to a 100-year flood event for the island. In addition to serving as an attractive solution for the stormwater needs for the area, the city’s ability to utilize the canals provides the City of Fort Worth a solution at roughly half the cost of the City of Fort Worth’s traditional storm water drain and gutter system.

A fully built out system of stormwater canals will address stormwater needs for Panther Island while also achieving the City of Fort Worth’s density and quality of life goals for the area. The canals will provide safety at roughly half the cost to the city, all while providing a beautiful new backdrop for the area that adds quality of life right along the water’s edge.