Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Portland Streetcar Sits In Downtown Fort Worth & Other Fort Worth Boondoggles

Lately here in Fort Worth the subject of building a streetcar line has been generating all sorts of nonsense.

Apparently Fort Worth applied for Federal funds to build a streetcar. The funds were granted. Something like $25 million, if I remember right.

The first goofy thing that happened was after the money was granted a Fort Worth government person, I think a city councilman, wanted to spend the money on fixing a train yard, not understanding this was not money to be spent any ol' way Fort Worth wanted.

The Fort Wort Streetcar moved forward.

Somehow it then merged with J.D. Granger's Trinity River Vision with J.D. claiming the Streetcar had always been part of The Vision.

J.D. is now claiming that due to the Streetcar being in The Vision, developers are super-sizing their buildings, plumping them up from 3 stories to 10. I could not help but wonder why, if the Streetcar was always part of The Vision, why did it come as a revelation to developers that caused them to change the size of their buildings?

The latest Fort Worth Streetcar goofiness is on display this week in downtown Fort Worth. I assume on one of the parking lots known as Sundance Square. $25,000 was spent to bring a Portland Streetcar to Fort Worth.

Why? I really don't get it. The result of a boozy late night brainstorm? I suspect that may be the case, what with the Trinity River Vision paying the largest share of the $25,000 at $12,000. The T paid $8,000, while something called Fort Worth South chipped in $5,000.

When I first read about the Portland Streetcar I thought to myself, Portland does not have a streetcar, are they talking about the Max light rail train? So, I looked it up. Portland built a less than 4 mile long streetcar line in the downtown zone, which opened in 2001, the first built in America since WWII. The Portland Steetcar system is currently in expansion mode. Portland's Max Light Rail Train System has greatly expanded since I last rode it back in the 1990s.

J.D. Granger says, "It's a no-brainer," for the Trinity River Vision to donate $30 million to the Fort Worth Streetcar.

Was that some sort of Freudian Slip? "No-brainer?"

When I first moved to Texas there were only 3 things in downtown Fort Worth that even remotely impressed me.

One was the Fort Worth Water Gardens, south of the Convention Center. Another was Heritage Park, on a bluff overlooking the Trinity River. And the other was the Tandy Subway that took downtown visitors from big, free parking lots to a vertical shopping mall in, I think, what are known as the Tandy Towers.

Heritage Park has been allowed to turn into a boarded up, cyclone fence surrounded, embarrassing eyesore.

The Fort Worth Subway, a sort of streetcar, was lost in one of the more outrageous abuses of eminent domain that I have witnessed. Conspiring with the City of Fort Worth, Radio Shack used eminent domain to take a big housing project called Ripley Arnold, so Radio Shack could build a new corporate headquarters.

The new Radio Shack Headquarters eventually became a compound Fort Worth boondoggle.

First off the Tandy Subway was taken with nary a peep from the locals. I did not understand that at the time. I was still learning about the local sheep mentality.

The Radio Shack Headquarters soon grew on the banks of the Trinity.

Soon after that, Tarrant County College started building a new downtown campus, a short distance downriver from the Radio Shack Headquarters. I was of the opinion that the new Tarrant County College might give Fort Worth its first signature building that people outside of Fort Worth might come to associate with the city.

However, as the architectural plans for the new college were unveiled the man responsible for many of the more ugly buildings in downtown Fort Worth, but who is worshiped locally as some sort of wonderful benefactor, Ed Bass, made harsh noises about a sunken plaza at the new college.

Soon after that all sorts of hell broke loose over the college building project and its huge cost overruns.

Before the college brouhaha, Radio Shack found it could not afford its corporate headquarters. So, just a couple years after eminent domain was used to take a lot of people's living quarters and rid Fort Worth of its unique Subway, Radio Shack's headquarters was bought by German investors, who then rented some space back to Radio Shack.

Now, here is where this Fort Worth boondoggle gets really weird. The new Tarrant County College campus, construction well underway, way over budget, is sort of stopped. With Tarrant County College now buying a chunk of the Radio Shack Headquarters for a few hundred million bucks, and using that space as its new downtown Tarrant County College.

I believe the current plan for the partially aborted original new downtown Tarrant County College is for it to house administration offices and maybe some sort of nurse training.

And now we have both the former Radio Shack Headquarters and the partially aborted new Tarrant County College looking down on the Trinity River Vision. A likely boondoggle that will dwarf the Radio Shack/TCC boondoggles.

It really is a no-brainer.

1 comment:

FW Bites said...

The T's $8,000.00 "contribution" could have been used to put a few needed covered/enclosed bus stops around town where people, esp. the poor and frail (elderly, disabled, and children), spend up to an hour waiting for the bus while exposed to triple digit heat, rain, and frigid weather conditions. I've always assumed that the people I had seen sweating or freezing in the open spaces around bus stops (often right next to the traffic which expose them to fume, noise, splashing water, etc.)had to endure such a harsh reality because the T just didn't have the money to put up a little shade and protection. I was wrong. This is FW after all, where needed funds that were not available for the common citizen appear almost magically when one of the connected people "need" the money.

That multi-storied mall with the ice skating rink and futuristic looking/feeling multiple escalators was used in a number of movies in the 70's and 80's. Just can't remember the movie titles right now.