Tarrant County, after years in the making, is finally getting rail service to DFW Airport, when Trinity Metro launches TEXRail on New Year’s Eve between T&P Station on the Near Southside to the airport, with seven stops. Higher-density development has already surfaced around several of the stations. Here’s a look at those, and what could happen next after the airport launch.
TEXRail is preparing to launch long-awaited Fort Worth-DFW Airport service New Year's Eve.
T&P STATION, Fort Worth
Katy Lofts T&P is the western-most Fort Worth station on the Fort Worth-DFW Airport TEXRail route, and already is the western terminal for the Trinity Railway Express and served by Trinity Metro buses. The long-planned Katy Lofts transit-oriented development, on the Trinity Railway Express lot at the northwest corner of South Main Street and West Vickery Boulevard, will include a first-phase, mixed-use residential and commercial tower and a parking garage. Commuters who live in the tower can walk a short distance to their TEXRail train. The apartment tower will have a mix of market and below-market rents that help address the central city’s need for more below-market rents. The plan calls for a boutique hotel in a future phase, enabling travelers to hop a train at DFW and come right into where they’re staying in Fort Worth. The project is expected to help drive future redevelopment nearby, including in the South Main Village. “From a housing perspective, it’s critical,” Mike Brennan, CEO of the Near Southside, Inc. economic development nonprofit, says. “That may be the best hotel site in the city. And we have got to start delivering workforce housing.”
Project: 10-story, 238-unit apartment. Public-private partnership of Fort Worth Housing Solutions, Matthews Southwest development partner, Near Southside, Inc., and Trinity Metro.
Apartments: 168 one-bedroom apartments, 68 two-bedroom. Fifty percent market rate. Ninety-three affordable-rate apartments targeted at tenants earning 60 percent of area median income. Fifteen apartments for low-income residents. Those help address need for more below-market rents in Fort Worth and on the Near Southside.
Ground-floor retail: 12,000 square feet planned, including restaurants, retail and a day care center. Fort Worth Housing Solutions in talks with the YMCA-run Amaka Child Development Center in the Butler housing project.
Garage: Six stories, 598 spaces for residents, retail customers and rail passengers.
Funding: 4 percent tax credits, tax increment finance district, Fort Worth city transportation-oriented development bonds, tax-exempt bonds, private mortgages, North Central Texas Council of Governments.
Timeline: Financing expected to close first quarter 2019; construction starts second quarter; construction expected to take 24 to 30 months, says Mary-Margaret Lemons, CEO of Fort Worth Housing Solutions.
Planned public improvements: Plaza between apartment tower and hotel, pocket park, streetscape, transit shelters and signage on West Vickery bus routes.
Future phase: Six-story, $25 million to $30 million boutique hotel fronting West Vickery.
INTERMODAL TRANSPORTATION CENTER, Downtown Fort Worth
Several developments taking advantage of the new train line have come off the drawing board or are in planning. Those include a residential tower planned by the Nashville-based Southern Land Company, at Eighth, Calhoun, Ninth, and Commerce streets. Southern’s plan was approved conceptually in 2017 by the Fort Worth Downtown Design Review Board. Southern Land must return to the DDRB for final approval; Southern Land executives did not respond to requests for an interview for this story.
The developer of the recently opened Hampton Inn & Suites at 1001 Commerce St. cited TEXRail access in its decision to build the hotel, Andy Taft, president of the Downtown Fort Worth Inc. organization, said.
Texas A&M University in August purchased three parking lots adjacent to its current School of Law building in downtown Fort Worth, in preparation for an eventual expansion that A&M has talked about since it acquired the school from Texas Wesleyan University. The lots, acquired from Texas Wesleyan, are across from ITC.
Robert Ahdieh, the law school's new dean, says conversations are ongoing among local governments, Fort Worth legal community, and A&M System about what's needed and wanted in the law school. He envisions a world-class institution. Guest experts can take trains from DFW Airport, exit at ITC and walk into the law school and their nearby hotels, Ahdieh says.
"What are the investments each of these communities is capable of and inclined to provide?" Ahdieh said in an interview in late August. In the interview, he sought to quash speculation in some Fort Worth circles that the law school could end up somewhere other than downtown Fort Worth. "The university and the law school have no notion of relocating away from Fort Worth, and frankly away from downtown," he said. "For lawyers, it is the logical place to be."
Elsewhere downtown, Fort Worth’s planned renovation and expansion of the north end of the convention center, and construction of a convention hotel, also will be “directly and positively impacted by the train to the airport,” Taft said. ITC, also a Trinity Railway Express train station and Fort Worth’s bus connection hub, has been identified as a prospective Fort Worth terminal for bullet train service if that eventually comes to the city.
NORTHSIDE/STOCKYARDS, Northeast 28th and Decatur streets, Fort Worth
The Northside station has generated the least development interest among TEXRail stations. Relatively close to the Stockyards, it’s not connected, and property uses around the station are a mix of industrial and vacant. The city’s tried unsuccessfully to obtain fund for a Northside/Stockyards TEXRail Station development plan and form-based code that would govern development. “We’re looking for alternatives that would make it more likely to develop mixed-use” and more likely to create demand for the real estate, possibly city-initiated zoning changes, Eric Fladager, the city’s comprehensive planning manager and transportation-oriented development specialist, says.
With the station under construction, there’s still been virtually no real estate movement of note, Fladager says. “I think that area will change once the station is open,” he says. The best opportunity to connect the station intersection to the Stockyards may be down the Lebow Channel, a creek that runs through Trail Drivers Park between Northeast 28th and Northeast 23rd streets, Fladager said. Northeast 23rd runs along the south side of the Stockyards and cuts across the railroad tracks to Trail Drivers, and some trail already exists. “The trail extends almost to 23rd Street,” he said.
MERCANTILE CENTER, North Beach Street, south of Meacham Boulevard, Fort Worth
The Mercantile stop is perhaps the most unusual along TEXRail’s route, because Mercantile Partners – owner and developer of Mercantile Center – owns all of the property around the train stop, and uses are major office and warehouse – none of the sort of mixed-use development that surfaces around train stations. “Everybody dreams of being Mockingbird Station in Dallas,” Brian Randolph, Mercantile Partners’ president, says. That’s the big light rail-fed station with apartments, movie theater, stores, restaurants and bars, and bus line feeding the nearby SMU. “This is not going to be Mockingbird Station. It’s either going to be commercial-type use or residential.”
Mercantile has 1,500 acres, is 50 percent developed and hosts 10,000 employees. Two hundred acres surround the train station that's under construction. Haltom City, to the east of North Beach Street, is residential.
“What we’re waiting on is someone with a vision we think would be a complement to the rest of the business park,” Randolph says. If the ultimate plan is for residential or retail uses, Mercantile most likely would sell the piece around the station to a developer, Randolph said.
NORTH RICHLAND HILLS (Two stations)
Smithfield Villas: 90-lot townhome and patio home development underway by Our Country Homes, $27 million.
Iron Horse: Two mixed-use projects totaling 15,000 square feet of commercial with 600 multifamily units underway, by The Wolff Company and Right Quest LLC, $70 million. Plus Iron Horse Commons, a 160-lot townhome and patio home development by Our Country Homes and CB JENI, $40 million
Grapevine's TEXRail station: Potential boon to Grapevine employers like hotels
HISTORIC DOWNTOWN GRAPEVINE:
Grapevine Main: The most ambitious of development around the TEXRail stations is Grapevine’s $105 million public/private sector transportation-oriented development underway at Main Street and Dallas Road. The train will dump passengers – and pick them up – just to the south of the city’s vibrant downtown shopping and entertainment district. “If you have a three-hour layover, you can hop on a train [at DFW Airport] and be in downtown Grapevine in eight minutes,” Bob Baulsir, Trinity Metro senior vice president, says. The train’s expected to be a boon for employers, particularly the city’s hotels like the Gaylord Texan, Baulsir said. “They struggle with finding workers,” Baulsir says. “This is going to provide a back-and-forth for a ton of people.”
Artist's rendering of Grapevine Main transportation-oriented development, underway at downtown Grapevine's TEXRail station
Outdoor plaza: 38,000 square feet, up to 3,500 guests.
Rail station: 42,000 square feet, five stories. 19th century-influenced design, market, entertainment and food hall experiences, meeting space, offices and community event space.
Hotel Vin: Six-story, 121-room boutique hotel.
Parking: 552-space garage.
WHAT’S NEXT: Southwest Fort Worth?
What’s next after the Fort Worth-DFW Airport launch? Trinity Metro executives earlier this year submitted a proposal to the City of Fort Worth for a $500 million extension of TEXRail from T&P Station southwest to Summer Creek in the Chisholm Trail Corridor, with stops at the Medical District next to Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center, TCU/Berry at Eighth Avenue and West Berry Street, and Granbury Road at Interstate 20. That segment was slated originally to be part of the Fort Worth-DFW Airport launch, but it was severed from the launch to focus on getting the airport service open. Trinity Metro's proposal calls for double-tracking along the entire route, to mollify Fort Worth and Western Railroad, which owns the right of way.
The city’s examining what to do next with TEXRail as part of a broader study it commissioned in August on transit priorities, in which it hired a consultant to recommend priorities among the big menu of options that Trinity Metro laid out in 2015. The city also funded a series of pilot projects on first-mile/last-mile transit options. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to figure out what we can pay for,” Susan Alanis, the assistant city manager who took on the transit portfolio earlier this year, said.