Fort Worth officials announced their intent to purchase a mostly unoccupied 20-story building to serve as their new city hall, which would hit taxpayers with a pricey bill during a time of high unemployment.

On December 15 during its 10 a.m. meeting, the Fort Worth City Council will vote on whether to approve the purchase of the Pier 1 building at 100 Energy Way for the new city hall. Pier 1 declared bankruptcy earlier this year, and less than half of the building is currently occupied.

This move is surprising as a city official told Texas Scorecard months earlier that Fort Worth expects to continue growing north, and in the future, city hall could potentially be moved closer to the Alliance Gateway Freeway area—17 miles further north than 100 Energy Way.

The final sale price is listed at over $70 million, and City Manager David Cooke said he doesn’t expect the purchase price plus renovations to exceed $100 million.

According to the Tarrant Appraisal District (TAD), as of 2020, the total appraised value of the Pier 1 building is $71 million.

Property tax expert Chandler Crouch found the building’s cumulative 2020 property tax bill is $2,022,221, which remained unpaid as of December 10.

“Last year, their tax bill was for $1,983,938, and they paid $2,366,547,” Crouch told Texas Scorecard.

If the appraised value remains unchanged and the city council does not buy the building, Pier 1 could generate over $50 million worth of future tax dollars over the next 25 years.

A city official told Texas Scorecard that the Pier 1 building is within the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) for the Trinity River Vision Authority (TRVA). A TIRZ is an area sectioned off by local governments for a specific period of time, and property taxpayer dollars expected to be collected above what the TIRZ collected in its first year become collateral for a redevelopment loan. A government agency is set up to manage spending while TIRZ revenues are paid back to the lender.

TRVA’s TIRZ has been used to help finance the Panther Island real estate redevelopment boondoggle.

This city official said Fort Worth doesn’t collect any property tax dollars from the Pier 1 building because it is within the TIRZ, but Fort Worth Independent School District does.

School property taxes make up a significant portion of Texans’ property tax bills, and Fort Worth ISD’s have been rising. This year, Fort Worth ISD trustees approved such a large tax hike that it triggered a tax ratification election, which passed 52.15-47.85 percent. The end result is that the district’s average property tax bill for homeowners spiked over 10 percent from 2019 and over 65 percent from 2013.

All members of city council and the school district board were asked how removing Pier 1 from property tax rolls would affect homeowners’ property tax bills.

“Loss of property tax revenues from the new city hall building are expected to be offset in whole or part through the sale of other City properties that will become surplus and can be sold following consolidation of services,” Councilmember Carlos Flores told Texas Scorecard.

Councilmember Cary Moon reiterated similar points in a social media post, adding that other city-owned “lease space will be terminated.”

I recommend that any questions about FWISD be directed to them,” Flores added.

Fort Worth ISD Trustee Tobi Jackson recommended questions be posed to the Fort Worth City Council and Mayor Betsy Price. No other trustee replied before publication time.

A city official said $4 billion in new property was added to the tax rolls in 2019, and that was being considered to offset any effects to the school district. However, in an interview this month with the Fort Worth Business Press, locally based real estate developer Terry Montesi said, “The last nine months or so has been brutal, for the retail industry and the retail real estate business, with few exceptions.” He listed office real estate among the markets that are hurting.

“Old, tall buildings would worry me,” he said. “Fortunately, we don’t have a portfolio of tall, big city, office buildings that are older. They’re going to have to invest a lot of money to make people feel safe, if they can.”

But retail, office, mixed use, there’s really no financing for it today. But nobody with any brains is trying to deliver any product today, either. We’re all just going to kind of hunker down and wait this out.

Another thing to consider with the potential purchase is that local taxpayers—the ones who would be paying for this—are hurting. The most recently published numbers showed Fort Worth unemployment at 6.8 percent in October. This is more than double October 2019’s 3.3 percent, but down from April 2020’s high of 13.5 percent.

Citizens were not shy in voicing their opinions about the proposed new city hall.

“Why do they need to expand?” Laurelgreen Art asked. “Government should be reduced, not expanded.”

“Why do they need a new building?” asked Melanie Stein. “How they flush our money is sickening!!! We should get to vote on it!!!”

“They can stay right where they are,” Beth Harrison wrote. “Aren’t most working from home? Wasteful, unnecessary spending!”

“Businesses go under while government continues to grow,” Joline Tate posted. “It won’t end well for the people.”

“That municipal building they have now is architecturally significant and solidly built, from what I understand. I actually like it,” commented Joe Palmer. “We need to stop this from happening.”

The city council is expected to vote on December 15. Concerned citizens may contact Mayor Betsy Price and their city council member.

District 2 – Carlos Flores: 817-392-8802,
District 3 – Brian Byrd: 817-392-8803,
District 4 – Cary Moon: 817-392-8804,
District 5 – Gyna Bivens: 817-392-8805,
District 6 – Jungus Jordan: 817-392-8806,
District 7 – Dennis Shingleton: 817-392-8807,
District 8 – Kelly Allen Gray: 817-392-8808,
District 9 – Ann Zadeh: 817-392-8809,

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.