Now the Real Work Begins: JD Granger Keeps Panther Island Project Afloat

Catching up with the executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority.

When you’re in charge of one of the biggest projects on one of the biggest landmarks of Fort Worth — the Trinity River — there’s no doubt you’re busy. Couple that with being a dad, a frequent traveler and, not to mention, the son of a U.S. representative.

Such is the life of JD Granger, executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority (TRVA). Aside from managing flood control and hosting events like Panther Island Ice and Rockin’ the River, one of the biggest things on TRVA’s plate right now is the Panther Island project — an estimated $910 million development that intends to bring housing, restaurants, entertainment and a San Antonio-style riverwalk to the northside of downtown. All in all, the development will span 88 miles down the Trinity.

This year, the nitty-gritty begins. With much of the prep work finishing up, Granger says more vertical construction is set to take place — think breaking ground on a multifamily and the beginnings of the riverwalk.

Granger handles all that and still finds time to drive his kids to sports activities and go tubing down the river (incognito, might we add). He took some time out of his jam-packed schedule to chat with us on how the vision is coming along and what life is like on the river.

Q. What’s your favorite thing to do along the river?
A. Along? My favorite thing is to be in our river tubing at Sunday Funday at Panther Island Pavilion. I’ll float and chat with people far and near. I hold back telling them what I do. I soak in their thoughts about our river, the event and Fort Worth at-large. They always say, “I never thought about getting in the Trinity River. This is great.” I know I look like a madman smiling ear to ear.

Q. How is the Panther Island project coming along?
A. Killing it. We’re about one-third of the way through the project. We are about to wrap up the phase that provides little reward — clearing the way for vertical construction. Now, the excitement begins. Bridges are well underway. The bypass channel is in final design. The first multifamily project and riverwalk section begins this spring. And, we are working with several more developers on some great projects that would extend the Panther Island River Walk in the near future.

Q. Your mom is Kay Granger. How closely do you follow each other’s career?
A. We do more than follow. We partnered to complete the delivery of the river project. She committed to coordinating all federal needs. I committed to coordinating all state and local needs. And, we promised each other that neither could leave until everything is on autopilot. But, don’t get me wrong — she is still Mom. She calls me at least twice every weekend for me to come over and “fix” her TV remote, iPad, thermostat, phone ... Please. Please. Take her electronics from her. She is in denial.

Q. What else do you talk about?
A. Our brains multitask at all times, and we are the restless sort. We think it’s normal. However, it can be exhausting to others, especially loved ones. We relax by enjoying a glass of wine, while playing gin rummy, and talking nonstop about our community’s needs and what we could do to help. My kids think our conversations are very boring. My friends say they are stressful. But we love them, and that it is how we relax.

Q. What keeps you grounded?
A. People. I love them. All of them. I eat out almost every meal — in large part because I crave the conversations and input of people outside my circle. From the waitstaff, to the bartender, or the couple sitting next to me, the conversations always challenge me. Listening to others describe where they are from, why they chose their neighborhood, or thoughts on different Fort Worth districts provide wonderful honest input. Those conversations are brain candy.

Q. When not working, what are you doing?
A. Traveling. Every trip teaches me new things to bring home and affirms why I love Fort Worth.

Q. What should we expect to see from Panther Island in 2018?
A. Almost full completion of the White Settlement Bridge. Great progress on the Henderson and Main Street bridges. Wrapping up the first phase of Riverside Park and Gateway Park. The groundbreaking of Panther Island’s first multifamily project. The first section of River Walk. And, we hope to announce another mixed-use project that truly captures the vision the community described for Panther Island.

1. Inner tube. The inner tubes at Rockin’ the River come from none other than Margaritaville king Jimmy Buffett, who also has a pool float business.
2. Sunscreen. JD prefers Australian Gold Exotic Blend because it smells the best.
3. Flip flops. Because flip flops “make me happy.”
4. Oktoberfest stein. These bad boys retail for $75 at Fort Worth’s Oktoberfest.
5. Passport. JD travels often to waterfront cities.