Last week a mouthpiece for Fort Worth's ruling junta objected to me suggesting Fort Worth's Trinity River Vision would likely turn into yet one more Fort Worth Boondoggle. Well, we had some prime Fort Worth Boondoggle material in the news today.
You are looking at what used to be Radio Shack's Corporate Headquarters in this photo, with what used to be Pier 1 Imports Corporate Headquarters in the background. Radio Shack's Headquarters was built with $86 million in tax breaks.
Radio Shack's Headquarters opened in 2005. To build their headquarters, Radio Shack used what was, to my mind, til the Dallas Cowboys out did them, the worst case of eminent domain abuse I'd witnessed.
Radio Shack booted hundreds of low income dwellers from their homes. Radio Shack also obliterated one of Fort Worth's few unique things, that being a free subway that ran from huge parking lots, also obliterated, to downtown. It used to be so easy to park downtown.
A short distance from Radio Shack, Tarrant County College was building a new campus. It's design was pretty interesting. I commented a couple weeks ago that this building might finally give Fort Worth an iconic structure that people in other parts of the world might recognize as being Fort Worth.
A powerful local, last name of Bass, a man with demonstrably bad taste when it comes to architecture, objected to the design of the new college, a design which included a pedestrian bridge across the Trinity River to more college buildings.
Well, that Bass man has gotten his way, there will be no bridge across the Trinty, no campus on the other side of the river, no sunken plaza. In other words, all that made this building unique has been taken away.
But what about the college? Well, Radio Shack has been on hard times for a long time. It always seemed bizarre to me that they would build such a palace for their headquarters, structures that seemed totally at odds with the tacky, run-down, trashy look of Radio Shack stores.
Like I said, Radio Shack got $86 million in tax breaks from Fort Worth to obliterate those parking lots, get rid of the subway, evict all those people and build their headquarters.
And now, Radio Shack has sold its corporate headquarters to Tarrant County College for $238 million. TCC estimates they will spend another $80 million renovating the Radio Shack buildings into class rooms.
Meanwhile, back at the original new TCC construction site, the parts already under construction, will be finished and turned into mostly administration offices.
As for Pier 1 Imports, they also have been having troubles. Soon after opening their new headquarters they turned off a bright light that shot skyward, to save money. And now their headquarters has been taken over by Chesapeake Energy, which has enough energy to turn the light back on.
So, Radio Shack lasted less than 3 years in its new headquarters. It's estimated the taxpayers are out about $100 million.
Does all this sound boondogglish to any of you?
Soon, another Fort Worth tax break beneficiary will be completed, that being the Omni Convention Center Hotel. The thinking for subsidizing the hotel was that the lack of a good hotel near the convention center was the reason that not many conventions took place in Fort Worth's Convention Center. No hotel builder saw the economics as justifiable to build a hotel, hence the tax breaks. Other cities, like Seattle, that do get a lot of conventions, do not have to subsidize the construction of hotels near their convention centers.
So, I predict that soon after the Omni Hotel opens there will be noises that its losing money due to many many empty rooms. Two years later it will shut down. Fort Worth will then take it over and turn it into their new city hall.
Meanwhile in far north Fort Worth there sits another underperforming beneficiary of Fort Worth tax breaks, that being the customer shy sporting goods store called Cabelas. Now, when Cabelas decides it needs to shut down its underperforming store I'm thinking it'd be a great building to makeover into a north campus of Tarrant County College.
In the end the taxpayers do get something from these Fort Worth Boondoggles, besides getting it in the end.