Panther Island: Fort Worth project honors city’s past

05/08/2014 6:45 PM

05/08/2014 10:43 PM

The name is different, but the mission is the same.

On Wednesday, the Trinity River Vision Authority board voted to change the name of the $910 million Trinity Uptown project to Panther Island.

Many in the community wanted to see the 800-acre project on the near north side renamed to honor the city’s past, said Matt Oliver, a spokesman for the authority.

In a Star-Telegram poll, 63 percent of the readers said they favored the name change. There is already a popular attraction in the area called the Panther Island Pavilion where outdoor concerts and other events are held to allow residents to get more comfortable with coming back to the river.

“I support the name change,” said TRVA board member Bob Riley in a prepared statement. “I think Panther Island is a unique destination and uptown is more of a generic term.”

TRVA Executive Director J.D. Granger agreed that the public likes the Panther Island name.

“I have asked for input from the community, and the name Panther Island really resonates with them,” he said.

The panther’s connection to what is more commonly called Cowtown came about more than 140 years ago when Fort Worth’s leaders were trying to lure a railroad to a town in an economic slump and a population decline.

According to Star-Telegram archives, in January 1875 a Baptist minister, described as having a “highly imaginative mind,” saw an outline on dusty West Weatherford Street and started a rumor that a panther must have slept there. That rumor developed into an exchange of jibes between Dallas and Fort Worth newspaper writers.

For reasons lost in the dust of time, Fort Worth residents embraced the mythical cat and began calling their town Panther City. Even today, the emblem of Fort Worth police includes a crouching panther, and it’s the mascot of Paschal High School.

Perhaps a more obvious question about the new Trinity Uptown name is, where’s the island?

There actually will 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.

The waterfront neighborhood will be pedestrian-oriented and is planned to include 10,000 mixed-income residences, 16,000 permanent jobs and is estimated to boost the Tarrant County economy by $1.6 billion per year.

This story includes material from Star-Telegram archives

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