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Looking South

As you look to the south edge of downtown Fort Worth, the vista has become considerably more eye-pleasing.

The uncomely Interstate 30 overhead that towered over Lancaster Avenue and smothered its prospects for redevelopment has come down.

For the first time in 41 years, there's an unblocked view of two large, historic structures on Lancaster: the 70-year-old Texas & Pacific Railroad terminal building and the 68-year-old U.S. Post Office.

But that's just the start.

One of Fort Worth's highest priorities for the next three years should be to make major progress toward revitalizing and beautifying downtown's southern end.

That is extremely doable, even with the economy slowing.

Approximately $15 million in federal, state and local funding is already earmarked for a dramatic reconstruction of Lancaster. The project is to be completed by mid-2004.

The city's plan is to create a pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevard. Surplus right of way is to be sold to create opportunities for new residential, retail or other development along the north side of Lancaster.

Lancaster's remake will be enhanced by two other nearby projects that are already in the works.

The Fort Worth Convention Center is undergoing a $70 million-plus expansion that will make it much larger and nicer - and therefore better able to attract lucrative conventions.

In between the center and the Water Gardens, a new Events Plaza is being created. It not only will provide an alluring space for gatherings of convention-goers but also will provide an enticing new entrance to the gardens.

A portion of the expanded center facilities is expected to be ready for use in the early spring of 2002. The Events Plaza is to be completed about that same time or shortly thereafter.

The convention center expansion, consisting of two phases, is to be finished in the spring of 2003. City officials also are discussing the possible construction of a first-class, 400-room hotel to serve the convention center.

Developers have been talking about converting the T&P terminal building into apartments, condominiums or a franchise-operated, limited-service hotel.

Downtown's south end recently got another boost with the launching of Trinity Railway Express commuter rail service that includes stops at a new Ninth Street transportation hub and the T&P site.

It's hard to imagine the south end of downtown not looking dramatically better within the next few years. There's too much momentum to stop it now.


Copyright 2002 Star-Telegram, Inc.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram