Fort Worth leaders are hoping a long-planned Interstate 30 gateway monument entrance sign that spells out Fort Worth becomes an iconic symbol much like Los Angeles’ Hollywood sign, but for now they just want it completed.
The City Council last week approved spending $105,552 from the city’s $1 million public art fund to pay an artist and landscape architect for the final designs of the welcome sign, but not before expressing frustration over the time it’s taken to get to this point.
An additional $84,642 will be put in contingency funds, bringing the city’s total to $205,194. Coupled with the city’s money, about $470,194 will be spent in the end.
The project started in 2004 and is now scheduled to be installed in spring 2017.
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“I’ve not been happy with the way this project has gone,” said Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, whose district the sign will be in. “I understand why they’ve had some delays.”
But, she added, “When that project goes up and is finished, it’s going to be a showcase. I’m excited about what it can be.”
Councilwoman Ann Zadeh said the sign is unique and interesting and is “going to turn into something like the Hollywood sign. I would like to have my picture taken in front of a big ole sign that says Fort Worth.”
Fort Worth Public Art took over the project in 2007 for the city, three years after Fort Worth received a $265,000 Governor’s Community Achievement Award. The city was among nine communities selected by Keep Texas Beautiful, a statewide grass-roots environmental group, to share $1 million in projects awarded by the Texas Department of Transportation.
The money still sits in Austin with the state agency earmarked for the project. It can only be used for materials and construction.
The sign will the first of its kind for Fort Worth. It will have the city’s name spelled out in 8-foot-tall steel letters, mounted on repurposed concrete construction barriers that will cascade one-by-one for 500 feet perpendicular to the highway and will be lighted after sunset.
The sign will be on the north side of Interstate 30, between Cooks Lane and Eastchase Parkway, near the city limit with Arlington. The project is in the TxDot right-of-way in a location where in the spring wildflowers are plentiful.
“Fort Worth certainly deserves a welcome monument that is unique and showcases our city,” said Anne Allen, public art project manager for the Arts Council of Fort Worth. The city contracts with the Arts Council to oversee and manage its public art fund. Project spending requires City Council approval.
Allen admits the gateway monument project has taken a long time, mostly because of the reviews involved and setbacks when the first artist selected backed out and the community wanted to change the location, all triggering additional reviews.
Finally, in 2012, the team of Fort Worth artist/sculptor Etty Horowitz and Dallas-based landscape architect Kevin Sloan was selected. Horowitz has done several public art commissions, including a sculpture for the Chisholm Trail Community Center in far southwest Fort Worth.
A year later, their preliminary design passed TxDot and Federal Highway Administration safety reviews. Those agencies wanted to make sure motorists could read and understand the sign traveling at highway speeds.
In March 2014, the preliminary design was reviewed by the community.
An architecture firm and an engineering firm will be hired to draw construction documents. Once those are approved by TxDot, the project will be put out for bid. That is scheduled for about a year from now.
A TxDot contractor will make the signs. The project is slated for dedication in spring of 2017.
“It’s going to be wonderful,” Allen said.
Some council members, though, were concerned about the expense, with one calling for a spending cap.
“How much more are we willing to put into this project to see it come to fruition?” asked Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray. “We started out with a grant that was $265,000 and we have now put in $205,000 to get where we are today. At some point we have to say enough is enough.”
Councilman Zim Zimmerman said he was concerned about the precedent the sign will set.
“There are many, many entrances to the city and we’re going to be very lopsided because we can’t afford to spend $500,000 on every one of those major arterials,” Zimmerman said. “This is unsustainable.”
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727