Future development in downtown Fort Worth should be done with the pedestrian in mind but should also find ways to transport people to the Cultural District, the Stockyards and even Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, according to a draft report of a new strategic action plan.
Called Plan 2023: A Ten Year Strategic Action Plan for Downtown Fort Worth, the 45-page draft report touches on hot-button topics such as transportation, homelessness and bringing a medical degree program to the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
But foremost, it sets the tone for a “pedestrian-first” philosophy toward development and suggests sweeping changes in how the city views downtown’s role with adjoining neighborhoods. Among the ideas: building pedestrian bridges and using water taxis to allow pedestrians to cross the Trinity River.
The recommendations are part of the fourth 10-year plan spearheaded by Downtown Fort Worth Inc., a nonprofit booster organization. The draft was developed with input from DFWI volunteer committees, community stakeholders, staff from the city and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, neighborhood representatives and the public. Freese and Nichols served as a consultant.
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The process began last summer. The study area is bounded by the Trinity River and neighborhoods to the north, the Trinity River to the west, Interstate 35 to the east and Interstate 30 to the south, the report said.
“Every one of these plans is of their time and they build on the successes of the previous plans, and this one is no exception,” said Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc. “One of the great successes of downtown Fort Worth is that it’s built around the pedestrian and the comfort of human beings as opposed to the comfort of a car.”
Transportation is one of the six major topics covered in the report. The draft plan calls for adopting and supporting regional rail and developing a regional transit plan, one that would accelerate Tex Rail’s arrival downtown by 2016, the report said.
Another objective calls for working with The T and adjoining neighborhoods to perhaps expand the Molly the Trolley downtown circulator to include routes to the Stockyards, Cultural District and the near south side. The report suggests exploring a car-sharing program, which would operate much like the just-introduced bike-sharing program.
“This is a way of connecting downtown and making the urban experience seamless between districts to the extent that we can,” Taft said.
The draft calls for improving transportation for visitors to the city, including increasing connectivity for tourism opportunities by capitalizing on the impact of North Texas sports arenas, particularly Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Taft said.
“We are a destination that is very close by,” Taft said. “Why is Arlington, the Cowboys Stadium, and the Rangers Ballpark, and the theme parks for that matter, not a part of our transportation mix? They should be.”
The report introduces a new topic called expansion zones, which addresses how to make the walking experience beyond the core of downtown more pleasant for pedestrians, Taft said.
“If you look at the core walkable zone downtown, it’s very good from the Fort Worth Omni Hotel to the courthouse,” Taft said. “You get outside that walkable zone and it falls off very quick. That’s typical for American cities of our size. We want to reinforce the core; we don’t want to encourage a lot of leap-frog development. We want to expand the walkable core thoughtfully.”
The report also covers improvements and development as the Trinity River Vision project continues and calls for adding pedestrian bridges across the river in several spots, including near the Tarrant County College Trinity River East campus that was built into the river’s bluff.
The college once planned to span the river with buildings on both sides but abandoned that concept when it purchased the former RadioShack headquarters instead.
“The TCC bridge will eventually happen, but also at other places along the river,” Taft said. “As we see more development, crossing the river on foot is going to become more important.”
The plan suggests studying how to improve pedestrian traffic on the North Main Street bridge and introducing water taxis.
And for the first time, this strategic action plan talks about the city’s plan to address homelessness.
“This organization has been a part of development of the homelessness plan,” Taft said. “We’ve been very supportive of this. Now that there is a plan and a strategy that is being worked, we think it’s important to integrate it into how we do what we do.”
Among other issues, the report suggests studying the expansion of the Fort Worth Convention Center, building an additional 7,500 residential units with 2,500 downtown, developing transit-oriented mixed-use development along Lancaster Avenue and Calhoun and Jones streets, increasing the number of hotel rooms downtown, attracting more shops and restaurants, and the development of a Science Technology Engineering and Math school in downtown.
In the next 10 years, when a planned arena is likely built at the Will Rogers Complex off Lancaster Avenue, plans call for razing the aging 10,000-seat Convention Center arena for an expansion. The city spent $75 million and completed the last Convention Center expansion in 2003.
“It’s time to have that conversation and really understand, now that we’re at full capacity, what that expansion really is and what functions are held there,” he said.
The report also suggests exploring creating a downtown parks conservancy, perhaps modeled after DFWI’s efforts with the JFK Tribute or the now defunct Water Gardens conservancy.
“As DFWI has gotten more involved in downtown parks ... we see the need to create a body of people and resources who understand the value of downtown parks and the role that their activation plays in making downtown a more liveable and enjoyable place,” Taft said.