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FW leaders are urged to keep transit hub in east downtown

FORT WORTH - A group of national consultants told Fort Worth leaders Thursday that they should construct a transportation hub on the eastern edge of downtown rather than in the historic Texas & Pacific Terminal building on Lancaster Avenue, as some political leaders had favored.

But the six-person panel also recommended that renovation of the old art-deco building continue so it can anchor the city's plans to redevelop Lancaster when the new Interstate 30 opens in 2002 just south of the thoroughfare.

Officials with the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, called the T, said the consultants' suggestion to locate a central transit station at Ninth and Jones streets reaffirms plans the T already had in store.

"This just says what the community already approved years ago," said John Bartosiewicz, the T's general manager. "But the consultants have an even grander vision than even we thought of."

The group - which included engineers, developers and urban planners from throughout the country - told Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr, city staff members, T officials and members of the Lancaster Corridor Redevelopment Project that the transit hub should include a "landmark building." They also said Ninth Street should be redesigned west to City Hall.

"All this time, we've been looking east, and we never considered looking west," said Mr. Bartosiewicz, referring to the site, which sits just south and east of Sundance Square. The consultants also recommended that the bus transfer station at the hub be scaled back in favor of several smaller sites throughout the city.

The consultants praised the city's efforts in developing downtown and its willingness to address transportation needs, including the upcoming Trinity Railway Express commuter train.

But, they said, the city and others should take advantage of the historic and unusual buildings that dot the downtown landscape - such as the Bass Performance Hall and the Tarrant County Courthouse - and build a transit building of the same caliber.

"Look at your examples downtown, and build it that way," said Rick Chellman, an engineer for the White Mountain Survey Co. in Ossipee, N.H. "If you do it right . . . you can create magic. You can feel it in other parts of Fort Worth."

The consultants were brought to Fort Worth specifically to address the transportation center after another group of consultants assessing Lancaster Avenue in April recommended relocating the hub from the planned Ninth and Jones site to the T&P building.

Mr. Barr and others, including U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, were intrigued by the idea, but T officials, who already had started construction at Ninth and Jones, maintained that their plan would best serve both commuters and tourists.

On Thursday, Mr. Barr said he supports the recommendations for both sites, and he praised the idea of redeveloping Ninth Street and locating more public spaces throughout the city.

"We just needed to know how to tie all this together," said the mayor, who was so enthused by the proposals that he sketched his own map of a small public park near City Hall.

"This is the kind of thinking that I don't think we've done in the past. If we're transporting people into downtown, where are they going to go from there?"

The Dallas Morning News
Laurie Fox