Panther Island / Central City News

Introducing the Privately
Financed Panther Island Riverwalk

Last week, the first round of hard hat tours were held introducing the first section of the Panther Island Riverwalk to community stakeholders. The Panther Island Riverwalk is a model public-private partnership providing much needed stormwater infrastructure that is financed by the private sector! Special thanks to Encore Panther Island for allowing limited access to the area for the tours and to Panther Island Brewing for allowing us to use their space for presentations.

JD Granger, Executive Director of Panther Island/Central City, kicked off the tour with a presentation showcasing the history of the partnership between the Tarrant Regional Water District and City of Fort Worth to have the interior canals meet the stormwater needs for Panther Island. Granger discussed how the canals are a model public-private partnership for addressing stormwater needs on Panther Island while also saving the City of Fort Worth, and taxpayers, roughly $14 million. Following JD, Elizabeth Basham, Executive Director of Trinity Collaborative Inc., announced their partnership with the Tarrant Regional Water District to bring a beautiful art project to the first section of the Panther Island Riverwalk. Trinity Collaborative (previously Mayfest Inc.) seeks investments from corporations, foundations and citizens in order to fund amenity projects that provide cultural, educational and recreational amenities along the Trinity River and in surrounding parks. Lastly, Angela Hill, Senior Development Manager for Encore Multi-Family, gave some insight into the inspiration behind the 300-unit multi-family project, Encore Panther Island. This first multi-family development on Panther Island is expected to open late summer 2021. After the presentations, groups were taken on a hard hat tour of the first section of Panther Island Riverwalk.

Due to the positive feedback of the hard hat tours, we look forward to introducing more people to the first section of the Panther Island Riverwalk in the coming months.

Learn more about the privately financed Panther Island Riverwalk that is under construction now and will save the City of Fort Worth $14 million in stormwater needs:

The first section of Panther Island’s signature canals was unveiled last week, highlighting the innovative public-private partnership that is being used to provide the 800-acre district with crucial stormwater infrastructure.

The 225-foot-long section is part of the $55 million Encore Panther Island Multi-Family apartment complex scheduled to open later this year. Encore is located at NW Fourth and N Main streets, just north of the old TXU power plant.

Besides ultimately providing the public with a pedestrian-friendly setting reminiscent of the San Antonio Riverwalk, the canals replace the costly curb-and-gutter underground system typically built by cities for stormwater.

The City of Fort Worth and the Tarrant Regional Water District have established a process where developers pay TRWD to build the canals. The location and volume capacity of the canals will negate the city’s need for large stormwater arterials in the area. This approach cuts the city’s costs of stormwater infrastructure needs by more than 50 percent, saving taxpayers about $14 million.

It also allows TRWD to own and operate the canals, guaranteeing that the discharge from the densely populated area – it is anticipated it will eventually include 10,000 residential units – will not negatively impact the quality of the water in the Trinity River.

The current stormwater system, designed in the 1940s and 1950s, is undersized and causes water to back up into the street.

“The City of Fort Worth and the Tarrant Regional Water District joined forces to find a solution for challenges faced by investors on Panther Island,” said J.D. Granger, Executive Director of the Panther Island/Central City project. “At not a penny more than investors currently incur, this plan will speed up permitting, allow for greater density with full build out of each parcel much like Downtown Fort Worth, and provide a smart attractive solution for stormwater management.”

TRWD is building the Panther Island/Central City in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The $1.17 billion flood control and economic revitalization effort covers about 2,000 acres, including Panther Island, which is created on the city’s near north side by building a bypass channel.

The Panther Island signature canals are not part of the USACE federal flood control project. The canals address interior flooding only. The City and TRWD have the sole responsibility for dealing with the internal flooding on Panther Island – no federal dollars are spent on correcting it. Still, the system must meet the level of protection required by the Army Corps as part of the overall Central City flood control project.

As a result, the City and TRWD have jointly designed the canals, with the TRWD building them to provide the protection required by the federal government after the levees come down as part of the broader flood control project.

Overall, there will be three canals in the Panther Island area. Two of the canals are located in the eastern portion of the island and one on the western portion. When completed, there will be about 9,500 feet of canal, or roughly 1.75 miles.

But instead of the City laying out taxpayer dollars to build large stormwater arterials for the area, investors will pay TRWD an upfront impact fee to build the canals which will negate the need for large arterials. Developers typically spend this money to individually deal with stormwater problems.

“What exists today is undersized,” said Woody Frossard, TRWD environmental division director and project manager for Panther Island. “For development to occur all new stormwater infrastructure would have to be installed, but would not provide additional public amenities like the canals would.”

Investors will be motivated to avail themselves of this solution because it will also help them comply with the City’s zoning plan for full buildout of each respective parcel. That zoning plan was adopted by the Fort Worth City Council in 2006.

Under this scenario, the City will still be responsible for building the typical, smaller stormwater laterals located throughout the area.

“It’s a model public-private partnership for the effective delivery of a stormwater conveyance system that adds property value and contributes to the quality of the development and the entire city,” Granger said.