Could Trinity Uptown become “Panther Island”? Maybe

Posted Saturday, Sep. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Lots of cities have an “uptown” neighborhood — not the least of which is Fort Worth’s neighbor and sometimes rival, Dallas.

But how many cities have a “Panther Island”?

That’s the question some folks at the Trinity River Vision Authority are asking. For much of the past decade, officials working on the redevelopment of an 800-acre property north of downtown Fort Worth have called it Trinity Uptown.

That moniker is meant to pay tribute to the Trinity River, which would be rechanneled to make room for the development, and to reflect the uptown (read, high-toned) feel that developers hope the area will have when it’s finally rebuilt and repopulated.

The tentative schedule is to finish the bulk of the work on the river and area roads, bridges and utilities by 2023.

But some officials now say they’d like to entertain the idea of rebranding the area as Panther Island.

The area will, in fact, be an island after the Trinity River is redirected to form a northern border for the property and an urban lake is created to form a southern border near the Tarrant County Courthouse edge of downtown.

And since Fort Worth’s nickname is Panther City, why not call the area Panther Island?

“People like the name Panther Island just because it’s unique to Fort Worth,” said Matt Oliver, Trinity River Vision Authority spokesman. “A lot of people hear uptown and think we’re copying Dallas. There’s probably 20 or so cities that have that name.”

The Panther City moniker dates to the 1870s, when Fort Worth’s leaders were still trying to lure a railroad to a town suffering through a slump and population decline.

A resident pointed to marks on a street and declared, “That’s where a panther slept last night.” A young lawyer wrote about the incident, citing it as a humorous example of how deserted the streets had become.

Although there was no proof that a wildcat had slumbered on the street, city leaders embraced the reference and began calling their town Panther City.

This summer, Panther Island Pavilion became a popular destination. Several outdoor concerts and other events were held to get residents more comfortable with coming back to the river.

The city has been largely cut off from its riverbanks since the 1950s, after a series of tall — and some would say ugly — levees were built to prevent flooding.

The Trinity River Vision Authority is overseeing a redevelopment that could cost $910 million to modernize flood control, make the area more attractive for waterfront homes and businesses, and reincorporate the river into Fort Worth’s civic psyche.

Oliver cautioned that the name change idea is preliminary. Quietly, employees are gauging the public’s acceptance of the Panther Island name.

At least two authority board members recently said that they have never heard the Panther Island name used for anything other than the summertime pavilion events.

“I typically refer to it as the Central City project,” board member Vic Henderson said. “I haven’t thought about it much. I’m more concerned that we do what we’re supposed to do, and do it properly, and continue to stay on schedule.”

Nonetheless, a visit to trinityrivervision.org/Projects on Friday afternoon showed that previous references to Trinity Uptown had been replaced with the subhead “Panther Island/Central City.”

A caption next to a video about the project read: “The most well-known of all Trinity River Vision projects is the plan to create an urban waterfront community to the north of downtown Fort Worth.

“This plan is known by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) simply as ‘Central City,’ but to most of the public it is called ‘Panther Island’ (formerly Trinity Uptown).”

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796 Twitter: @gdickson

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