Downtown Fort Worth needs more housing, civic leader says

05/20/2014 12:25 PM

05/21/2014 11:42 AM

The number of housing units in downtown Fort Worth has more than doubled in the last decade, but the head of a downtown advocacy organization says many more are needed, particularly condominiums and town homes.

No new condos or town homes have been built downtown since 2009, and the market for buying existing units is getting thin, Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., told the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday.

In 2012, a condo or town home was on the market for an average of 220 days before selling. Last year, that plummeted to 99 days. And in the first quarter of this year, it was down to 66 days.

“The market is tightening up, which suggests a strong demand for new product,” Taft said. “There’s a lot more room to expand in the coming years.”

Taft made his comments as he presented the 2013 State of Downtown report, a 64-page booklet of downtown facts and figures, including population and housing numbers, hotel performance figures, and property and sales taxes. The report, he said, details what’s going on downtown and where it’s headed. It covers the traditional central city and does not include development along the West Seventh Street corridor.

“One of the biggest market movers in the past decade has been the ascendancy of residential as a land use,” he said. “We have 5,000 residents who look at downtown with a whole new set of perspectives.”

For example, 69 percent of the downtown residents polled mentioned lifestyle as a reason for choosing to live in the central city, and 98 percent said it was safe, according to the report, available online at www.dfwi.org.

“For those of you who can remember downtown just 15 years ago, it’s easy to believe that if there were enough people to poll back then, we would have not gotten those responses,” Taft said. Downtown now, he said, has “the highest concentration of employees, businesses and payroll in the city of Fort Worth.”

The hotel market may also be expanding soon, Taft said. Downtown has 2,642 hotel rooms, but “several hotel operators are looking in and around downtown,” he said. “There has never been a period of time that we’ve had more developers coming to our office saying they want to be in downtown.”

A developer has property under contract at Lancaster Avenue and Main Street on the south end of downtown, at the site of the former Frank Kent Cadillac dealership, with plans to build a nationally branded limited-service hotel.

And a Wisconsin developer is still said to be planning to renovate the former United Way building near the Fort Worth Convention Center into a hotel. In 2012, that project received a $3.5 million commitment from the city’s Lancaster Tax Increment Financing District.

“The lion’s share of growth is suburban, but for the first time in generations, the center city is delivering a fair share of regional growth,” Taft said.

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