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Fort Worth’s Panther Island project moves forward with $403 million

Imagine: an island is (finally) built in the middle of our city. | Rendering via TRWD

Imagine: an island is (finally) built in the middle of our city. | Rendering via TRWD

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There’s a green light for the Central City Flood Control Project — aka the development that will create the 800-acre Panther Island, Fort Worth’s long-awaited walkable waterfront district — in the form of $403 million.

The federal grant comes from the US Army Corps of Engineers to finish the construction of the project’s bypass channel. The channel is a key component of the project, connecting the Trinity River’s Clear and West Forks to redirect the river’s flow + divert flood water in emergencies. It’s also what will make Panther Island an island.

The bypass channels are currently 50% complete. But that doesn’t mean the project will be finished any time soon. The Corps of Engineers has pushed back the expected completion of the two bypass channels and surrounding infrastructure from 2029 to 2032.

A win for the city

The grant’s announcement is, in the words of Mayor Mattie Parker, “an incredible moment in Fort Worth’s history.” This project has been decades in the making, and after years of funding hold-ups and construction delays, this allocation of money is some much-needed grease on the wheel.

What to expect

Designing + hiring contractors for the bypass channel is an 18-month process, according to the corps’ spokesman Clay Church. The city will also need to relocate certain utilities before construction begins. According to Clay, here’s the part of the project you can expect to see completed first.

A glimpse into life on the waterfront | Rendering via TRWD

A glimpse into life on the waterfront | Rendering via TRWD

Function vs. form

The money has been granted because of Fort Worth’s flood risks — according to the Trinity River Vision Authority, the project will save 2,400 acres and $2.4 billion from catastrophic floods, the likes of which the city saw back in 1949.

A component of the overall project that the federal money won’t touch is the creation of “Panther Island” or Central City, a revitalization of the city land that will turn into an island when the flood project is completed. Think shopping and dining, new residential units, and a sprawling riverwalk (similar to San Antonio’s) designed to be a major city attraction.

What’s next

The City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Tarrant Regional Water District, Tarrant County College, Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth, Downtown Fort Worth Inc., and Streams & Valleys are working together to explore both near- and long-term development opportunities for Panther Island.

The organizations have put out a request for proposals for national real estate development experts to consult on ways that Panther Island can best reach its full economic potential. The consultant would bring the Trinity River Vision into alignment with the City’s Economic Development Strategic Plan as part of an updated strategic vision for Panther Island.

The consultant will develop case studies featuring cities that have successfully created and implemented similar waterfront or downtown redevelopment districts, evaluate the strategic opportunities, and provide recommendations on a governing structure to oversee the area’s long-term growth and development.