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Does Fort Worth Need A Makeover? Mayor Promises 'Cowtown' Won't Be Compromised

Sundance Square
The economic development report praised Sundance Square and downtown for transforming Fort Worth, but called the two successes 'outliers.'

Fort Worth appears to be headed for a reboot. According to a new economic development study,  the city that embraces the nickname "Cowtown" is in danger of becoming "the biggest suburb of Dallas."

Fort Worth natives bristled at the determination. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News have been trading barbs. Meanwhile, Mayor Betsy Price promises growth won't come at the cost of the city's roots.

Interview Highlights

On the report's findings:

We're a part of the fourth busiest metropolitan region in the nation and we're proud to be a part of that with Dallas, but we are two separate cities with separate identities and businesses. The study brought to light some issues that major corporations have been going to the east side of the Metroplex, and we really need to work on that.

One of the things that a lot of people said surprised them was that our tax base was upside-down: heavily residential and not as much on commercial. I had seen that growing trend when I was tax assessor and so I've been looking at that in the last six and a half years in office. I think that's the most alarming piece because you begin to put the burden of city operations on your residents. You need that burden to be shared with commercial and residential.

"Fort Worth has long had the history of being the best big city with a small-town feel."

On whether the city's been chasing the wrong kind of growth:

We saw so many people coming in and we had to focus on residential. Right or wrong, through nobody's fault, [we've probably] neglected a little bit of that commercial side. Fort Worth has long had the history of being the best big city with a small-town feel. That's still something that we want to maintain. It's a fine balancing act with how do we go out after this technology-driven economic development, yet how do we maintain our identity in Fort Worth.

On the risk of implementing the plan while gentrifying some neighborhoods:

Unfortunately in high-growth, developing cities, you see some gentrification. We have to continue to work with our neighborhoods where they are at risk for gentrification and see what they really want, take into account their opinion on zoning changes. But then they need to realize too that this improves their property values and improves where they are. It's a bit of a trade-off for neighborhoods.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter is KERA's vice president of news. He oversees news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News has earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.