On January 25th, the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth's leadership met with Mayor Parker, City Manager Cooke, Assistant City Manager Dana Burghdoff, and Development Services Department Director DJ Harrell to discuss findings from three Real Estate Council research projects related to commercial real estate and development in Fort Worth. The meeting was productive and provided City leaders with 10 specific recommendations to further improve development in Fort Worth. The Real Estate Council and City leadership are eager to work together for the betterment of commercial development in the City.
The first topic of discussion was the specific issues affecting commercial development, as identified from responses to the Real Estate Council's 2022 Development Survey. City leadership received the information positively and acknowledged challenges identified that negatively affect commercial development.
The second topic was the organization of the City's development functions across nine independent departments, eight of which are separate from the Development Services Department. The Real Estate Council shared their concerns regarding this structure and its challenges to commercial development. The Mayor and City Manager listened carefully and promised to consider the Real Estate Council's suggestions.
Finally, the meeting covered the potential magnitude of deferred or lost City property tax and development fee revenue resulting from developmental delays. The Real Estate Council shared its findings and the impact it would have on the City's budget. The Mayor and City Manager expressed their commitment to reducing development delays, thereby benefitting not just developers but the City and its timely receipt of development revenue.
Before concluding the meeting, the Real Estate Council provided the Mayor and City staff leadership ten written recommendations for improving commercial development in Fort Worth, which you can read in the attachment below. The Real Estate Council looks forward to continued dialogue with the City Leadership and collaboration with City Staff. The Real Estate Council's leadership has also committed to being available for quarterly meetings to review progress regarding the recommendations.
1. Expand the overwhelmingly positive trajectory within the Development Services Department to all development-related departments.
2. Instill a culture of problem-solving across all departments and down to the customer interface level as is the norm in most cities.
3. Resolve the City’s internal process conflicts between departments and remove the expectation that the customer will find a way to resolve them on their own.
4. The “silos” need to finally come down and the “One Stop Shop” needs to finally happen. The City cannot continue to ask the customer to navigate these nine departments on their own. Unfortunately, the City Manager’s 2020 “Expectations Memo” has not been implemented. On that basis, we respectfully suggest that the next logical step take place. That is to place relevant partner department personnel responsible for commercial development under formal written operational control of the Development Services Department Director. These staff will need to maintain necessary ties to their partner department heads and access to their department’s resources. However, for daily operational control and workflow accountability they should be organized under Development Services. While this is a very significant request, it would bring Fort Worth into line with their competitors who offer customers a more straightforward process interfacing with a single development department.
5. Additionally, plan for these same employees who have development responsibilities to be on the same floor and in the nearest vicinity possible to the Development Services Department and to each other, in the new City Hall.
6. Schedule standing regular continuous improvement meetings with all staff involved in reviews workflows. Expand the proven third-party lean process improvements and BPI’s to include the larger multi-department reviews. This will serve not only to improve processes and bring accountability but will help all staff better understand how their roles and
responsibilities affect the ability of their colleagues to solve problems as a team.
7. Invest in proven customer service training annually for all City personnel involved in the development process. Ordinances should be enforced not as brick wall, but as a problem to be corrected.
8. Semi-annually, the City Manager should host a two-hour forum attended by all development personnel at the City of Fort Worth and the commercial real estate community to discuss and resolve targeted items selected by the City Manager, the city Development Advisory Committee, and the Real Estate Council. Subsequent meetings should chart progress on the items resolved.
9. Invest Heavily in Human Resources retention efforts to ensure the highest performing staff are supported and promoted to create the next generation of leaders to promote the cultural shift towards problem-solving. Provide more opportunities to advance within rather than leaving existing departments. Employees should not have to continuously move to other departments or leave the City to advance their careers. Years of knowledge and competency are continuously leaving departments to move internally or externally to other cities.
10. While not reflected in the City’s original Org Chart, the Real Estate Council felt it critical to point out the legal department controls many aspects of the contracts and agreements necessary to develop in Fort Worth. While previously consulted on non-standard situations, they have now become thoroughly entrenched in the standard project workflow. Their mindset is one of extreme "what if" risk thinking and their practicality level is so low no private company could survive under their guidance. Significant resources should be invested in improving all aspects of their important input as the current process is too slow to be practical.
Read Full Memo:
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About the Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth
The Real Estate Council of Greater Fort Worth (REC of GFW) is the unified voice for the commercial real estate profession, influencing action and supporting change to accomplish long-term job growth and enhance the quality of life. REC of GFW is made up of more than 500 members from more than 250 different companies who touch all facets of commercial real estate development. Besides conducting events and programs benefiting our members, REC of GFW addresses policy issues that affect development. REC of GFW is focused on three main areas:
Expanding Relationships -- we provide forums and events where relationships are expanded and leaders are developed.
Addressing Development Challenges -- we acknowledge development challenges in Fort Worth, Arlington, and Tarrant County and formulate and execute solutions with other partners to solve these challenges.
Addressing Community Challenges -- we address and work to solve community challenges to promote long-term job growth and an enhanced quality of life in Fort Worth, Arlington, and Tarrant County.
The Real Estate Council believes that strong economic development is at the heart of growing Fort Worth, Arlington, and Tarrant County. Members work closely with civic, business, and public service leaders to strengthen the promotion of Tarrant County to companies, organizations, and others whose presence increases the prosperity of our community.