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[IMGCAP(1)]FORT WORTH-In an industry defined by numbers, the City of Fort Worth’s statistical picture makes it the envy of its peers. Across the board, fundamentals for retail, office and residential are holding up and on the rise, seemingly insulated from the economic turmoil ricocheting worldwide.

“We see it on the news, but it’s not outside our window,” says Johnny Campbell, president and CEO of Sundance Square and guardian of 39 CBD blocks controlled by the Bass family. “We’re not foolish enough to say we shouldn’t be concerned. We acknowledge the world around us and we acknowledge we’re not without impact. But, it’s definitely buffered.”

Not even crude oil’s now-falling price per barrel is expected to darken the city’s economic health despite deep-running ties to oil and gas, both in its backyard and family office portfolios. Keeping monthly tabs on the city’s economic fundamentals, Downtown Fort Worth Inc.’s latest dashboard report shows strongly the city is bucking the US trend.

Office occupancy is 95%, up 2.2% in the past month in an estimated 46-million-sf inventory. Class A and class B rents rose 2.8% and 16.5% in the past year, with the latest reading putting the rates at $30.07 per sf and $21.30 per sf, respectively. In the 30-day change, class A rents dipped 12 cents per sf and class B rose $2 per sf.

Multifamily occupancy is 96.08%, up 0.4% in the year-to-year comparison and a 0.7% hike in the past month. The average residential rent is $1,593 per month, a 4.8% increase since 2007 and $57 higher than one month ago.

The average single-family house price climbed to $260,733 from $223,595 just 30 days ago. The average price did drop 2.7% in the past year, but the average per sf price, now $244, rose 4.5% in the past year and $37 in the past month.

Retail occupancy is 98.9%, down 0.5% from last year and up 0.5% in the last 30 days. Gross sales rang up $33.1 million or $713,860 more than the month before and a 7.6% increase versus last year at this time.

The only stumbling block was hospitality. The 67.8% occupancy dropped 7.7% in the past year, but rose 0.7% in the past month. The daily room rate is $99.08, up 73 cents in the last 30 days and down 11.1% in the past year. Hotel room demand, though, is on the rise, with the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau having booked 250,000 rooms this year, up 100,000 from 2007′s record-breaking total.

[IMGCAP(2)]“We have a very close-knit business community that works together in virtually every way possible to create a very sound economy in Fort Worth,” Campbell tells GlobeSt.com. “We have a steady, metered pace of development.”

Because Fort Worth is so different from Dallas, brokerage firms keep boots on the ground in both cities. Nanci Johnson-Plump, partner in Dallas-based Peloton Real Estate Partners, says the only change that she’s seen of late has been some short-term lease extensions by Fort Worth tenants because they want to wait out the US and global markets before they make expansion decisions.

“I see stability all the way to year end. In the first quarter, it could be a little slow,” Johnson-Plump says. “We know of some fairly major expansions that have elected to wait until next summer before they make their decisions. But the Barnett Shale isn’t going to go away. These are healthy companies making these choices.”

Ben Loughry, managing partner in Fort Worth for New York City-based Integra Realty Resources Inc., agrees that his home turf, by and large, is insulated from the brutal economic downturn, but it’s not insulated from re-trading. “There are a lot of deals being re-traded or reconsidered,” he says. “There’s no doubt we have a unique situation in Fort Worth, but the credit problems in the US are affecting us also.”

The market veteran is predicting the city’s fundamentals will pretty much stay flat until the rest of the US and the world get back on track. “The layoffs scare me more than anything else,” Loughry says.

Integra, like some other companies in the city, has stuck to its expansion plan, adding 4,000 sf to its 8,000-sf lease in Lexington Place at 930 W. First St. Before January ends, the team will move up to the fourth floor from the third and still hang onto half of its old space. “Companies are not stopping that process [expansion] and we’re one of them,” Loughry says. Integra’s extra room will be used to expand the property tax division and litigation support.

Loughry, Johnson-Plump and Campbell credit the city’s well being to its diverse business base, which includes healthcare and government in addition to oil and gas. They also credit the city’s financial health on attitude.

The most common comment in leadership circles is things get done the Fort Worth way, a favorite saying of Mayor Michael Moncrief. “The Fort Worth way is there’s got to be an answer we can agree on and not do battle,” Loughry explains. “That’s been in place for generations.”

Johnson-Plump says checks and balances have been kept in order not only by the diverse economy, but a conservative approach and business discipline. “There’s no perfect place, but it’s close,” she says. “It’s very progressive in a very methodical and thought-out way.”

The city, though, isn’t without challenges, Campbell points out. Its history has been “a steady, metered pace of development,” he says. “It will be possible that Fort Worth will find it more of a challenge to meter its growth and preserve its sound economy. Growing on the scale that Fort Worth is growing on, we will be challenged in facing that.”

The Bass-controlled Sundance still has 13 of its 39 CBD blocks to develop. The CBD portfolio of office, retail and residential space is 98% leased. Its newest crown jewel, the 280,000-sf Carnegie, is opening at 76% occupancy and enough deals in the pipeline to bump it to 85%.

Sundance Square’s governing principle has always been development must be “authentic, palatable to the Fort Worth fabric and organic. But, it’s not just any one developer. It’s the community’s approach,” Campbell says. “It doesn’t mean we don’t want to grow, but we want to grow in a careful, thought-out way. We have a city full of community and business leaders who have rallied together to make it work.”

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