Why American Airlines doesn’t want car traffic at its huge new Fort Worth headquarters

American Airlines’ new headquarters may be the most Silicon Valley-like corporate campus in Fort Worth.

The 300-acre spread, which the airline is tentatively scheduled to begin moving into in May, will feature 90 acres of woodlands, 8.3 miles of trails and more than 100 bicycles scattered throughout the premises so the roughly 12,000 workers who could be there on any given day can either stroll or pedal their way between buildings.

The property is bordered by Texas 360 to the east, Texas 183 to the north, Trinity Boulevard to the south and American Boulevard to the west. The area is just southwest of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

The $300 million campus is designed to encourage employees to walk between buildings, spend time in the fresh air and collaborate with co-workers from other departments, said Kirk Hotelling, American Airlines managing director of campus and airport affairs.

Sure, there are plenty of parking spaces (more than 10,000 of them) in garages on the perimeter of the property. But they are meant to be places where employees and guests can park their vehicles and forget about them until their day at the headquarters is done.

“We don’t want people getting in their car in the garage to drive from one building to another,” Hotelling said. “We’re really trying to promote movement between the buildings on campus. We have places for the cars on the perimeter, and it’s car-free in between. We will have bikes, golf carts. We’re planting 3,500 trees. We will have wi-fi. We want it to be an enjoyable experience.”

The trails connecting the various parts of the headquarters, dubbed the Robert L. Crandall Global Support Campus, will include a pedestrian underpass under busy FAA Boulevard, an east-west road that cuts through the property.

The airline has worked with the city of Fort Worth, Texas Department of Transportation and North Central Texas Council of Governments to ensure that traffic signals and other safety features on roads surrounding the campus will be improved by the time the campus is fully open.

Employees will begin moving into the new buildings in May, although the move will be performed in phases and probably won’t be completed until roughly October, company officials said.

The new campus will feature four seven-story towers, connecting to several smaller buildings on the property.

The responsibility for upkeep on so much green space, including a small lake (or maybe it’s a pond) in the middle of the property is somewhat new for American Airlines, which since the 1980s has operated from a more utilitarian set of buildings on Amon Carter Boulevard east of Texas 360. The company will have to be nimble, and willing to make adjustments on the fly as it learns how to manage a pedestrian-friendly property.

But ultimately, the campus will help American Airlines recruit the best talent, said Jonathan Pierce, American’s director of culture and change. Young professionals already show a preference for work spaces that break out of the traditional walls and cubicles of 20th century office spaces — and that trend is expected to continue.

“As we move into the campus,” Pierce said, “the type of support we need is going to evolve.”

To come up with the concept for American’s new campus, company officials toured many other corporate offices, including the non-traditional Zappos shoe company in Las Vegas, as well as the Plano locations for Liberty Mutual and Capital One.

The campus could become a model, as Fort Worth city leaders strive to make their city a more attractive destination for high-tech, high-paying jobs.

Artist rendering of American Airlines’ new headquarters in Fort Worth. Photo courtesy of American Airlines

Other amenities include a softball diamond, volleyball court and swimming pool for workers who wish to exercise or play recreational sports. A variety of eateries will be scattered at buildings throughout the property.

A tavern is available for the several hundred employees from other cities, states and countries who visit the airline’s world headquarters on any given day for training or conferences.

To put all the design pieces together, American hired the architectural firm OJB, which is perhaps best known for designing the wildly successful Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas.

The area is the former Sabre Holdings headquarters, and also is where American Airlines had its original headquarters after moving to Fort Worth from New York in the 1970s. American’s current headquarters west of Texas 360 consists of buildings that were opened in 1988 and 1990 — and it’s not yet known what will happen to those structures once the airline has moved to its new digs.

The new campus area is already home to American Airlines’ C.R. Smith Museum, the airline’s Flight Academy and Training and Conference Center and its newly-opened $88 million Integrated Operations Center (the company’s “Mission Control” area.).

The new campus will incorporate those buildings into a layout that includes towering new “Skyview” buildings that will hold employees in a variety of fields, including administration, reservations and other services.

Also adjacent to American’s new campus is the FAA Air Traffic Control Center, which will remain fenced off from the American campus.

Because American Airlines plans to build parking garages at each of the buildings on the property, about 21 acres of surface parking lots are being removed to restore the area to a natural green space.

American Airlines received a $21.25 million tax incentive package from the city. In June of 2014, the Fort Worth City Council approved a 15-year, $6.5 million tax incentive from the city for the 149,000-square-foot Integrated Operations Center.

Under terms of the deal, the airline must move into its campus by the end of 2019 and spend $50 million with Fort Worth companies and minority and women-owned businesses. For the first $100 million invested in the project, American Airlines receives a 75 percent abatement on its taxes. That climbs to 90 percent if the appraised value exceeds $300 million.

Even with the incentive, Fort Worth will receive about $7 million in tax revenue over 15 years, city officials say.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796; @gdickson
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