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FORT WORTH, TX-Demolition is set to begin by July 1 on the first of several older buildings to make way for commencement of the Trinity River Vision, a $576-million flood control and economic development plan that will open 1,800 acres in the center of the city to commercial and park construction. The plan’s three elements include restoration of the 600-acre Riverside Oxbow Ecosystem, a 500-acre expansion of the existing Gateway Park and Trinity Uptown, a redevelopment project that will convert 800 acres of aging riverfront industrial land to office, retail, cultural and residential use.

At the end of May, the Army Corps of Engineers approved redrawn boundaries for the flood control and economic development project, enabling the Trinity River Vision Authority (TRVA) to seek bids for demolition of older, mostly industrial buildings in Trinity Uptown. The two buildings will be replaced by footings for one of three new bridges over a rerouted Trinity River to link the burgeoning district with the city’s traditional downtown. TRVA is a subdivision of the Tarrant Regional Water District, which is developing Trinity Uptown in partnership with the Corps of Engineers, the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.

Chris Keffer, who works for group’s consultant, the Epstein Group in Fort Worth, says an old hotel will be demolished in July. The Sweet Shoppe has been given additional time to relocate. “They’re going to start construction after that,” he says.

The vision plan’s conservation and recreation elements initially were not linked with the Uptown redevelopment, which was previously known as the Central City Plan. But local officials pressed to combine them so it could proceed with redevelopment without having to worry about potential flooding problems in the reborn commercial district. By coordinating efforts, they felt they could better assure prospective developers the area was safe for tenants and residents.

According to a TRVA special projects manager, the authority has been able to acquire riverfront properties without use of eminent domain although that’s always an option. The land is needed for various flood control improvements, including returning the Trinity River to its original channel. Once the Central City project is completed, the existing levees in the immediate area will be dismantled, creating about 100 acres of new developable land. The water district will hold the easements for that land and determine what to do with it.

Even without the improvements, a significant amount of new development has occurred in the Uptown district. Completed projects include a $200-million headquarters campus for RadioShack; a 20-story office tower built for Pier 1 but recently sold for $104 million to Chesapeake Energy Corp.; and LaGrave Field, home to the Fort Worth Cats baseball team. A new campus for Tarrant County College that will span the new channel is in construction, and work has also begun on Trinity Bluff, a 30-acre mixed-use residential project. Plans are also in the works for a mixed-use project around the baseball stadium.

Keffer says the next stage, once the flood projects are complete, will be bringing development to the riverfront itself. The first bridge is expected to start in late 2009 and completed in 2010.

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