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Historical T&P Station to get face-lift

FORT WORTH - Construction could begin in weeks on redevelopment of the old Texas & Pacific railroad terminal, after the City Council on Tuesday agreed to pump $2.8 million into the project.

The approval -- a key step in the multimillion-dollar plan to revitalize Lancaster Avenue -- comes as city crews are poised to begin converting the roadway into a tree-lined, pedestrian corridor.

The council voted 8-0 to approve a plan that will allow money from a special tax district to be set aside for the terminal, which has been vacant for four years. Councilman Chuck Silcox was absent from the meeting.

The $26 million development plan calls for turning the upper floors of the art-deco T&P building into 130 apartments. The bottom floor has already been converted into a station for the Trinity Railway Express.

Up to 100 apartments and a parking garage are planned on an adjacent lot, said Ed Casebier, managing partner for Renaissance Development, which is working with Wood Partners of Houston on the project.

The city has scheduled a ribbon-cutting Friday for the first phase of the $14 million reconstruction of Lancaster Avenue. City crews will begin relocating utilities, the first step in changing the face of the road.

"It's an exciting project," said Joe Ternus, assistant director of Transportation and Public Works.

Lancaster Avenue, once the main east-west road between Fort Worth and Dallas, was literally in the dark as it ran through the south end of downtown after the Texas Department of Transportation built the Interstate 30 overpass above it.

The Transportation Department relocated the overpass in 2001, exposing the stately facades of the T&P terminal and other historical buildings that had been almost hidden behind the overpass.

When the projects are finished in 2005, Lancaster Avenue will be a four-lane road with a wide, tree-lined median, head-in parking on each side and wide sidewalks. Officials hope that the redesign will encourage pedestrians to walk from the near south side to shop or work downtown.

Narrowing the roadway will also allow the city to sell some of the rights of way along the north side for development. Plans call for dense, urban village-type buildings with street-level shops and offices or apartments on the top floors.

Moving the freeway overpass "allowed us to have a lot of space there," Ternus said.

The city's funding for the terminal project will pay to remove asbestos and lead paint and to spruce up the facade.

The money comes from a tax increment financing district, or TIF, that will channel taxes from new construction in the area into a special fund. The district covers 225 acres, roughly between Seventh Street on the north, Calhoun Street on the east, the relocated Interstate 30 overpass on the south and Henderson Street on the west.

City officials project that the district will produce $58 million in revenue over the next 21 years.

The funds have not been earmarked, but the plan approved by the council says that the TIF money could be used for public improvements such as landscaping, parking, utility relocation and historical preservation elsewhere in the district, including the T&P warehouse next door to the T&P terminal, the post office, the Fort Worth Convention Center and nearby hotels.

Those projects would have to be approved by a separate vote of the government agencies that are contributing taxes to the TIF.

Mike Lee, (817) 390-7539 [email protected]

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
Mike Lee