Fort Worth is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country — about 20,000 people are moving there each year. But the growth is especially pronounced in Far North Fort Worth — and officials are grappling with how to handle it.
Luke Ranker has been covering the area's growing pains for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He talked with KERA's Justin Martin about residents' feelings, and city officials' plans for redevelopment.
What's behind the boom in far north Fort Worth?
The land is cheap up there, which is true anywhere in Texas. In the suburbs, there's a lot of housing developments, mostly single-family homes. But we're starting to see a lot more multifamily apartments, and it gets you pretty close to job centers — like the Alliance Texas area, where there are a lot of warehouse jobs.
A lot of folks are actually commuting across the county line to job centers in Irving, and Plano and Dallas.
What issues have been created by the population boom?
The city has not caught up with the infrastructure needs. You're seeing a lot of these old farm to market roads, two-lane blacktop roads, and they are being inundated with cars. There might be a long-term plan to widen them into boulevards, but the housing developments have sprung up much quicker than the city, and in come cases the county, can accommodate all that new traffic.
All of Texas is growing, but Fort Worth is growing leaps and bounds over other cities. We had about 20,000 people a year just in the city of Fort Worth; that's not other cities in Tarrant County. We're probably just under 900,000 people now. By 2022, 2025, there will probably be more than a million people. They just haven't been able to catch up.
How are residents reacting?
I think there's some positivity around it because it means jobs, in some cases, but I think some folks are concerned that there aren't enough jobs.
The property tax base in Fort Worth is flipped so that almost all of the burden is on the residential taxpayers. There's not a huge commercial tax base, and I think residents are wanting the city to flip that around so that their property taxes aren't the main income source for the city.
I talked to one woman for a story, and she complained that most of the people who live in her neighborhood commute the same direction that she does. She thought maybe the city ought to be spreading the job centers around, so people in her neighborhood wouldn't have to drive across town.
Her husband drives to Arlington; they live out by Lake Worth. That's a big, long drive. So, I think they'd like to see a distribution of jobs.
Of course, this is all happening north of the loop and kind of west of the loop, and folks who live inside the loop in East Fort Worth are feeling a little bit left out because they're not seeing job creation. They're not seeing the investment in the neighborhoods that these newer parts of the city or are seeing.
What is Fort Worth doing about the boom?
A couple of years ago, they got a report back on economic development that was pretty eye-opening to them. It showed that Fort Worth had the risk of becoming a bedroom community to Dallas County ... and they want to stop that.
One of the things they're doing is trying to redevelop the urban core area. They want to focus on getting corporate headquarters, and they want to grow the number of residential units within a mile of the downtown business district. This is good for the city because it doesn't require the infrastructure that a northern suburb does. All of that infrastructure is already there — it just needs to be updated a little bit when you're talking about inside the city.
Having a high concentration of residents in the loop makes it more likely that a corporate headquarters will want to look inside the loop.
This conversation has been edited for clarity.