Grant funding will assist veterans

The Texas Veterans Commission awarded a grant providing direct services to North Texas veterans and their families.

The City of Fort Worth applied for and was awarded $600,000. Of that total, $300,000 is for general assistance and $300,000 for home modifications.

The general assistance funds benefit the Forward Home Veteran Assistance Program, through which Fort Worth was able to serve more than 150 veterans and their dependents last year with rent, mortgage and utility payments. This year, the program is committed to serving at least 180 veterans and their dependents.

The home modification assistance funds Housing for Heroes grants, which assist Texas veterans and their families in obtaining, maintaining and improving housing. The local goal is to serve 25 veteran households in Tarrant County by providing home accessibility modifications, heating and air, water and sewer, electrical system improvements, and roof repairs.

Veterans in need of services can call 817-392-5790 or visit the programs for veterans page.

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Project Bus heading to TCC Northwest

Get on the bus! The Trinity Metro Project Bus, that is.

The bus will be loaded with information and will stop from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 28 at TCC Northwest Campus Student Center, 4801 Marine Creek Parkway.

Project Bus is the City of Fort Worth and Trinity Metro’s moving outreach opportunity. Staff members will conduct surveys and inform residents about the Transit Master Plan.

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Successes, further recommendations documented in 18-month follow-up to Economic Development Strategic Plan

The City of Fort Worth released its first Economic Development Strategic Plan — which focused on establishing the city’s competitive edge, becoming a hub for creative business and ensuring the vitality of its community — in December 2017.

Eighteen months later, the steps that the city has taken since then are starting to bear fruit. TIP Strategies — the consulting firm that worked with the city on the strategic plan — recently released an update on the city’s progress when it comes to several of the plan’s tangible, measurable outcomes, while also noting specific areas for improvement.

This update comes on the heels of multiple interviews with city staff and stakeholders, as well as new population data that reflects the city’s growth. Fort Worth gained more new residents than any other large city in the Dallas-Fort Worth area from 2017-2018, and with that growth comes discussions about what kind of sustainable development will allow Fort Worth to stay competitive for years to come.

The outcomes of the Economic Development Strategic Plan will ultimately help Fort Worth compete successfully on both the national and international stage for creative, high-growth businesses, as well as the talented individuals who fuel them.

High-wage growth

The first outcome of the strategic plan is the growth of high-wage jobs in Fort Worth. Fort Worth’s competitive advantage has historically been in the manufacturing industry, as well as retail and service sector employment. However, these industries don’t usually offer high-wage jobs that can benefit the city through home sales and increased spending power for residents.

TIP Strategies’ recent update shows that Fort Worth is making steady progress in high-wage job growth, exceeding its goal with a 3.6% increase in the number of high-wage jobs created or retained from 2017-2018. However, the growth in average wages of those same jobs is slightly lower than desired.

Also, Dallas continues to lead Fort Worth by wide margins in professional service and healthcare jobs — both key indicators of economic success. Recent data indicates that Fort Worth is beginning to catch up, as the city added more than 1,300 new professional service jobs and 1,300 healthcare jobs between 2017-2018 — and healthcare jobs in particular should continue to grow as Near Southside’s Medical Innovation District becomes more established.

Sustainable tax base

The second outcome of the strategic plan is to create a more sustainable tax base that is driven less by the values of residential property, and more on commercial and industrial investment.

Zoning changes downtown and revised incentive policies that strategically target particular industries for tax abatements and Chapter 380 grants are just a few of the steps that Fort Worth has taken to help diversify its tax base.

Additionally, increases in retail sale growth, hotel occupancy, the amount of new office space and industrial space, and the growth of the commercial tax base from 2017-2018 have put Fort Worth on track to meet its annual growth targets.
The predominant concern for this outcome is Fort Worth’s low number of multi-family permits, which lag behind the city’s single-family permits in both quantity and value compared to other regional competitors.

Capitalizing on high-growth businesses

The third outcome of the strategic plan is to help Fort Worth’s economy better capitalize on high-growth businesses, and the creative individuals who fuel them.

TIP Strategies reports that Fort Worth’s value proposition has never been stronger, as the city’s population growth, high-profile projects and strong relationships with local partners in the startup/tech, medical and higher education industries make it an attractive location for entrepreneurs and larger businesses alike.

Of particular note is the quantity and value of venture capital and angel investment deals, which increased 29% between 2017-2018.

Commitment to quality of place

The final outcome of the strategic plan is to commit to a shared quality of place throughout the many neighborhoods and communities that make up Fort Worth. Specifically, a focus on walkability in both neighborhoods and business districts, and improved connectivity between the city’s various districts, should be a priority for Fort Worth.

While Fort Worth is making progress in this area, there’s still much work to be done. The strategic plan calls for accelerating Downtown Fort Worth’s growth into one of the state’s premier mixed-use business districts, and TIP Strategies directly ties the success of downtown to the strategic plan’s overall success throughout the rest of the city.

Just as important is the alignment of neighborhood assets to support and benefit from the city’s overall growth, particularly through the development of pedestrian-focused urban villages throughout the city.

Additional recommendations

In addition to providing an overview of the city’s progress on the strategic plan, TIP Strategies also made some general recommendations on how the plan can better achieve its goals.

  • Develop a comprehensive marketing strategy. While there is much regional excitement around the plan and its goals, there has not been significant change in Fort Worth’s overall perception within the DFW Metroplex — much less outside of the Metroplex — when it comes to attracting the attention of site selectors and national corporations. To that end, a more aggressive media strategy and a comprehensive marketing effort is crucial to the plan’s success, and TIP Strategies recommends that this become the primary focus for the next year in order to capitalize on local enthusiasm and stakeholder buy-in.
  • Additional resources are needed. New investments from both the City of Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce are required to fulfill the ultimate goals of the plan, including increasing staff to support further marketing, research, urban development and business retention and expansion efforts.
  • Stakeholders should coordinate their roles and alignment with the plan’s objectives. The City of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, and the area’s other economic development organizations are encouraged to better coordinate their respective roles and responsibilities to ensure that everyone’s resources are being used efficiently and ensure that the plan’s priorities remain consistently aligned.
  • Maintain a balance. While Fort Worth is making progress on corporate relocations, these efforts should be balanced with regional opportunities focused around the area’s chosen target industries: aerospace manufacturing and design, transportation innovation, life sciences, geotechnical engineering, international business, professional services and financial services.
  • Preserve Fort Worth’s unique identity. There should be a conscious effort to maintain a sense of Fort Worth’s character throughout all development and redevelopment projects. Furthermore, concerns about the displacement of existing residents or businesses due to revitalization efforts should be addressed before the project begins through marketing and internal due-diligence.

The complete summary of the Economic Development Strategic Plan update is available online.

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One-way streets in West Seventh lead to fewer accidents

Here’s some good news about traffic in the bustling West Seventh Street corridor: automobile crashes and auto-pedestrian accidents have both been reduced as a result of converting certain streets to one-way.

Between June 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, 70 automobile accidents were reported. Between July 1, 2018, and June 30, 2019, there were 61 crashes, a 13% decrease.

The number of automobile-pedestrian accidents decreased during that time frame from five to none.

In June 2018, certain streets in the West Seventh Street core were converted to one-way streets to help with crowd control, improve access for emergency vehicles and reduce vehicle-pedestrian conflicts. The one-way streets were part of a slate of projects designed to improve the safety, walkability and accessibility of the thriving West Seventh Street neighborhood, one of Fort Worth’s fastest growing areas.

The changes were brought about primarily by a spike in overall crime in the area from 2015 to 2017. Most crimes occur on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. and involve bar patrons.

City staff worked with businesses, civic organizations, neighborhood associations and other stakeholders to develop the slate of improvements.

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New municipal complex in early stages of discussion

Fort Worth residents will soon have a chance to provide feedback on an exciting project that will continue the momentum of development on the south end of downtown.

City officials are in the early stages of planning for a new municipal complex that will provide more efficient customer service and a one-stop shop for residents who need to conduct city business. Currently, city offices are spread among a dozen or so buildings downtown; several of those buildings are leased.

Early plans call for a new, consolidated municipal complex on city-owned land between Lancaster Avenue and Texas Street. The design would address transportation, mobility and green-space concerns in and around the proposed complex.

Cost savings would result from selling certain buildings, such as the Central Library at 500 W. Third St. and two office annexes and a parking garage just to the west of the current City Hall.

Currently, the city pays more than $698,000 annually for downtown leases and takes in revenue of $144,853 from city-owned facilities downtown.

The municipal complex project has several objectives:

  • Create a storefront, one-stop shop for development, utility and customer service interactions along with the efficiencies of staff from various departments working in the same location.
  • Reduce costs by ending facility leases and eliminating recurring facility maintenance costs.
  • Partially fund the project through by selling current assets.
  • Contribute to the tax base by returning these properties to the tax rolls.

Preliminary discussions place a new eight-story municipal complex and central library at about 253,400 square feet with a construction cost of $126 million. An adjacent eight-story parking garage with 1,200 spaces would add $24 million.

The work would be part of a planned 2022 bond package.

Share your feedback

Numerous stakeholder groups will be involved in the planning process. Already, Downtown Fort Worth Inc. viewed a presentation, and others are planned.

A series of public meetings will be scheduled so residents can learn about the project and provide feedback. Information will be posted on the city’s website in the coming weeks. In the meantime, residents can also email their comments.

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35W construction to begin soon in the Alliance Corridor

Funding has been secured for the final segment of the North Tarrant Express project in far north Fort Worth.

The project expands I-35W from U.S. Highway 287 north. The highway will provide a connection between downtown Fort Worth and the rapidly growing areas to the north.

“The 3C project is the culmination of 10 years of progress and growth in Tarrant County,” said Belen Marcos, U.S. president of Cintra, one of the project’s private developers. “This new segment will complete the connection between downtown Fort Worth and Alliance and tie directly into the redeveloped Loop 820 and Airport Freeway.”

The $910 million project will rebuild 6.7 miles from just north of U.S. Highway 81/287 (Heritage Trace Parkway) to Eagle Parkway in Denton County. The new corridor will include reconstructed main highway lanes, expanded frontage roads and two TEXpress managed lanes in each direction.

Construction will be done by Ferrovial Agroman US and Webber. Preconstruction activities are ongoing, and full construction will ramp up in 2020. Anticipated substantial completion is late 2023.

The North Tarrant Express 35W project is being financed through a combination of private equity from investment partners and the sale of private activity bonds. The equity investment is $160 million, and the private activity bonds will provide $750 million to the total finance package.

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Forty-one elementary schools receive safe routes to school improvements

Fort Worth continues to improve safe routes to schools for students across the area. Over the last year, a variety of projects were completed that ranged from sidewalks and crosswalks to signage improvements and pavement markings that provide better access to 41 schools in the Fort Worth area.

Improvements were completed at these schools:
W. A. Meacham Middle School. All-way stop control and pavement markings.
Dolores Huerta Elementary School. School crosswalk and pedestrian signage.
Woodway Elementary School. Implemented “one-way” during school hours with parking restrictions.
Sam Rosen Elementary School. Implemented “one-way” during school hours with parking restrictions, refreshed crosswalk markings.
McLean Middle School. Implemented “one-way” during school hours with parking restrictions.
Sonny and Allegra Nance Elementary School. School zone parking restrictions.
North Elementary School. School zone parking restrictions.
W.J. Turner Elementary School. School zone parking restrictions.
Glen Park Elementary School. School zone parking restrictions, refreshed crosswalk markings.
Terrell High School and Terrell Academy. School zone parking restrictions.
Forest Oak Middle School. School zone upgrade.
North Crowley Ninth Grade Campus. School zone upgrade.
Chapel Hill Academy. School zone upgrade.
International Leadership of Texas (Boca Raton). School zone upgrade.
Keller Early Learning Center. School zone upgrade.
Central High School. School zone upgrade.
Sunrise McMillan Elementary School. Implemented “one-way” during school hours.
M.H. Moore Elementary School. Implemented “one-way” during school hours.
North Side High School. Implemented “one-way” during school hours.
M.G. Ellis Elementary School. Implemented “one-way” during school hours.
South Hi Mount Elementary School. Implemented “one-way” during school hours.
Western Hill Elementary School. Implemented “one-way” during school hours.
Western Hill Primary School. Implemented “one-way” during school hours.
Poly Tech High School. School zone and signage.
S.H. Crowley Elementary School. School zone and signage.
Tannahill Intermediate School. School zone and signage.
W.M. Green Elementary School. School zone and signage.
Lake Point Elementary School. School zone and signage.
Lizzie Curtis Elementary School. School zone and signage.
Adams Middle School. School zone and signage.
North Riverside Elementary School. School zone and signage.
Applied Learning Academy (Camp Bowie Boulevard). School crosswalk and signage.
Washington Heights Elementary School. Refreshed crosswalk markings.
Truett Wilson Middle School. Refreshed crosswalk markings.
North Elementary School. Refreshed crosswalk markings.
Tannahill Intermediate School. Refreshed crosswalk markings.
Parkwood Hill Intermediate School. Refreshed crosswalk markings.
Freedom Elementary School. Refreshed crosswalk markings.
Pate Elementary School. Refreshed crosswalk markings.
Oaklawn Elementary School. Refreshed crosswalk markings.
Seminary Hills Park Elementary School. Refreshed crosswalk markings.

Improvements are tentatively planned at these campuses for later this summer:
Carter Park Elementary School. All-way stop control and pavement markings.
Lily B. Clayton Elementary School. All-way stop control, pavement markings and school zone parking restrictions.
Creek View Middle School. All-way stop control and pavement markings.
Friendship Elementary School. School crosswalk and pedestrian signage.
Central High School. School crosswalk and pedestrian signage.
Trimble Technical High School. School zone parking restrictions.
Jo Kelly School. School zone parking restrictions.
Waverly Park Elementary School. School zone parking restrictions.
Fossil Hill Middle School. School zone upgrade.

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Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Bill Thornton is retiring in 2020

The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce announced the retirement of President and CEO Bill Thornton. His last day will be July 7, 2020.

Thornton, who recently celebrated his 30th year with the chamber, has been in the CEO/president role since 2000. He joined the chamber staff as director of local business development in July 1989, and was named vice president of economic development in 1992.

As president, Thornton has been involved in numerous community initiatives, including the Wright Amendment agreement, the Base Realignment and Closure task force and the formation of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council.

“I’ve been fortunate to have worked with exceptional business and community leaders, as well as an outstanding staff team at the chamber, past and present,” Thornton said. “With strong community support, the chamber will continue to meet the evolving needs of this region in order to help Fort Worth address challenges and achieve success for all of our residents.”

To ensure a smooth transition, effective Oct. 1, Thornton will assign some of the responsibilities of president to Brandom Gengelbach, executive vice president of economic development.

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Atmos Energy unveils pledge to call 811

Research indicates there is a 99% chance of avoiding a utility service outage, property damage, personal injury or harm to the environment when someone dials 811 before digging.

Because excavation damage poses the greatest threat to its natural gas system, Atmos Energy has unveiled a “Pledge to Call 811” to underscore the importance of safe digging. Atmos Energy will donate $1 to the American Red Cross for every pledge completed online.

“Natural gas safety is a partnership, so we want everyone to understand the importance of calling 811 before building a deck, planting a tree, installing a fence or digging for any other project,” said John McDill, Atmos Energy vice president of pipeline safety. “Calling 811 is free, it’s safe and it’s required by law — helping to protect millions of miles of underground utility lines that are vital to everyday life.”

When someone dials 811 before digging for any project, that caller will reach a local representative who will coordinate with Atmos Energy and other utilities to mark all underground pipes and cables.

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Community invited to celebrate branch library’s 30th year

Thirty years ago, the opening of the Fort Worth Library-Diamond Hill-Jarvis Branch started off with a bang — almost literally.

Librarian Roza Abassi set up a piñata in the children’s area to welcome guests, and the first child who picked up the bat and started swinging nearly hit her in the head. But that is just one of many memories she has from working there for more than two decades.

The Diamond Hill/Jarvis Branch will celebrate its 30th year with a special community event, 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, at the library, 1300 N.E. 35th St.

Abassi, who now works at the city’s Northwest Branch, remembers the community support the library drew even before it opened, with community members petitioning the city until the new branch was built. Once the library opened, community support continued.

In particular, she recalls how the Ayala family was one whose members constantly used the library. “Both spouses worked in the schools as principals,” Abassi said. “Their family volunteered to star in a library-published booklet/fotonovela as patrons coming to use the library.” The educators also encouraged school visits at their locations, and in turn took classes to the library.

The anniversary event will include fun family entertainment from Mad Science indoors (foggy dry-ice storms, floating beach balls and a special “burp potion”) and professional bubble maker Professor Pops working his magic outside. Fort Worth EMS is providing free water to all attendees to help everyone beat the heat.

Also, Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School students will present the model for the tiny house they are building for a family in need through the Little House Happy Home Project. Fort Worth Police will have a booth to make free Safe Kid and Safe Senior IDs.

The community support the library was given in the beginning has continued through the years.

“We can’t wait to celebrate the library’s 30th anniversary with the community,” said branch manager Rebecca Conkle. “We hope our regular patrons will join us, but also those who haven’t come to the library in years or those who will visit their first time that day. Our staff is committed to continuing to meet the needs of the Diamond Hills-Jarvis community with a specialized collection and programming just for our neighbors.”

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