Panther Island / Central City News

Smart Sustainable Development – Fort Worth’s apartment boom could be here to stay.

Panther Island is a perfect example of smart sustainable development that promotes a high-density, mixed-use district for Fort Worth. As a part of the City of Fort Worth’s Comprehensive Plan for development, the Panther Island district will make a once aging industrial area more pedestrian friendly, connect it to the Trinity River, and provide connectivity between several existing urban districts that have been historically fragmented. The redevelopment of this area will increase Fort Worth’s tax base by bringing interest and investment back to the central city. An envisioned 10,000 housing units and three million square feet of commercial, retail, and educational space will make it possible for residents to live, work, shop, play and learn near the river.

The Panther Island district is impacted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control project; however, no federal money is being used to accomplish the City’s sustainable growth goals for the district. Development in the interior of Panther Island is happening now and will continue while the bypass channel and associated infrastructure is being built.

Below is an article from The Fort Worth Star-Telegram that points out how smart sustainable development, like Panther Island, will be key for Fort Worth’s future growth.

Fort Worth’s apartment boom could be here to stay.
Here’s what’s driving the growth

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

While a pause to rezoning Fort Worth properties for apartments may be wise as the city grapples with the influx of new residents, it’s likely the city will continue to need a robust and growing rental market for years to come, real estate experts said this week.

The housing market, both single-family and apartments, remained strong in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, though the data is still incomplete, said Drew Kile, a senior managing director for California-based Institutional Property Advisors. The firm provides brokerage, capital markets, market analysis and research services to real estate investors.The market for apartments will continue to grow stronger as housing prices grow, demographics favor single young professionals and developers look to the consistency of multifamily investments.

Three City Council members in December called for a moratorium on rezoning Fort Worth properties for multifamily. Led by retiring Councilman Dennis Shingleton, the group said it worried the city was building too many apartments that would overpopulate neighborhoods and put potential valuable commercial development at risk. In February the city’s planning staff is expected to provide a report on Fort Worth’s apartment market that considers job and population growth along with where multifamily developments should be built.

Kile said Fort Worth is wise to study the housing market.

“There’s the historical perception, an incorrect one, that they are going to bring the wrong people to the neighborhood and that they’re going to fall apart, and be crime-ridden, or what have you,” Kile said. “That’s not the case today.”

Kile provided a forecast of the apartment market to the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth on Thursday. The data will likely be used as city staff builds the market report for the council.

Travis Clegg, chairman of the Real Estate Council’s public affairs committee, agreed that impressions that apartments are poor investments or will downgrade a neighborhood are outdated.

He noted that most of the apartment construction in Fort Worth costs $120,000 per unit to build. That places rents around the same as a mortgage payment on a $250,000 to $300,000 home, he said.

While complexes do pack hundreds of people into a small footprint, traffic typically is only generated when those residents leave and return to work, unlike a commercial shopping center where an anchor grocery store could draw hundreds of visitors within a few hours.

Clegg said he wasn’t sure what the city staff report will reveal about apartment complex development, but he hopes it will provide a strong guideline for developers to follow. Too often developers embark on a project, clearing hurdles with neighborhood associations and the zoning commission only to be rejected or delayed by the City Council. While the city’s long term plan does specify zones for multifamily, a more detailed guide would help developers steer clear of rejection.

“We know there should be a buffer between some commercial and single-family homes that can be apartments or townhouses, that’s smart development,” Clegg said, adding later: “I think some guidelines that spell out where it should go and how it should be built would go a long way.”

Though Kile described the COVID-era data as “noisy,” Institutional Property Advisors research shows Dallas-Fort Worth as the top market for apartment building in 2020 with nearly 26,000 units completed. Though the number of new units opening each year has steadily grown from 2011, when the market hit a 20-year low of roughly 5,000 new units, vacancy has remained stable. Since 2013, the region’s vacancy rate has been between 5% to 6%. It was 5.2% in Fort Worth last year.

The steady vacancy rate despite the addition of new units shows the apartment market remains strong, Kile said.

The need for apartments in Fort Worth is fueled in part by the large number of young people moving to DFW. The region added nearly 23,000 new residents between 23 and 34 in the past year, Kile said. Another 120,300 young people are expected to come to the Metroplex over the next five years.

Many of them will land in Fort Worth and may not be ready to buy a home.

Describing this group as “renters by choice” Kile noted Census data that shows young people are buying homes later in life.

Apartment renters are not a monolith, he said, but there are two large demographics that are staying in apartments longer than in previous generations.

One group of renters likely could afford a home, but they’re eyeing a market slightly out of their price range, Kile said. Those renters may stay in apartments longer as they build savings or look for the right deal.

In 2011, the average Dallas-Fort Worth mortgage was about $360 more than the average rent, according to Kile’s statistics. The difference has grown to nearly $900 more. Those costs don’t include apartment fees or additional expenses related to home buying beyond the mortgage payment.

Another group of young professionals want the lifestyle that luxury apartments provide with amenities like pools and gyms without the responsibility of a long term mortgage or maintenance. These folks are comfortable paying premium rents.

“They’ve grown up in an urban environment,” Kile said. “They’ve grown up with apartments that are decked out. Apartments today have quartz, stainless steel appliances, and, you know, all the bells and whistles. They don’t necessarily want to give that up and take a step backwards when they buy their first home.”