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FT. WORTH-As ceremoniously as the Lancaster Avenue Bridge opened 41 years ago, it will come down. This morning, Ft. Worth officials herald a demolition start that will ignite a south side revitalization that’s long overdue.

It’s none too soon, say city officials. The razing most likely will put another 4.3 acres into the city’s hands in a deal with the state, Fernando Costa, Ft. Worth planning director, tells GlobeSt.com. Far beyond the extra developable land for high-density commercial and residential projects is the more direct link that will result between the CBD and medical district, the city’s two highest employment areas accounting for a total of 70,000 workers. “It’s important to recognize that the downtown and medical district are the economic hearts of the city,” says Costa.

Lancaster Bridge, which spans Interstate 30, opened in March 1960. It will take eight to 12 weeks to dismantle. The work gets underway Monday by Champagne-Webber of Houston, which has been awarded a $153 million contract from the state.

A $14-million road project will follow the razing as Ft. Worth officials negotiate for the added acreage. Then, it’s time to rezone from industrial to commercial and residential and look for willing developers to buy the parcels, which could be as many as 12, says Costa.

Meanwhile, Ft. Worth is in the home stretch of back-to-back banner years for building permits of all product types. “It’s pretty amazing,” Bob Riley, Ft. Worth development director, tells GlobeSt.com. He projects this year’s 30% jump in building permits will drive a record-setting $1.3-billion value by the fiscal year’s end in September. Last year, values peaked at $999.6 million. The city already is $230 million ahead of the total for the first 10 months of 2000, coming in at July’s end a shade over $998.7 million. Just a decade ago, the permit value was just $293.8 million and it’s been steadily climbing each year–a telling sign that the bittersweet 1980s are long gone.

In July, the department altered its recording system and as a result last year’s numbers might be slightly off, says Riley. Previously, applicants provided the dollar value on building permits whereas now it’s a reflection of the project’s sf. There is no way to isolate how much of the value is strictly commercial real estate, but a drive around town and into the outlying areas of the 315 square-mile Ft. Worth is proof that buildings are rising from the ground in record numbers in a metro area that’s still only 54% developed, he says.

Granted, permits include remodeling and swimming pool construction. But, Riley quickly points out, there has been a 96% jump in new single-family housing permits–evidence that the $1.3 billion represents a lot more than moderate upgrades and hot weather coolants. Permits were issued for 3,528 single-family homes in the first 10 months of 2000; this year for the same period, it’s 4,263.

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