REC of GFW polled local developers in 2019 to determine what was and wasn't working in the Fort Worth development process. In collaboration with the City of Fort Worth, we conducted a similar survey in September 2022, focusing on how Fort Worth's development process compares to other cities, what has improved since 2019, and where challenges now exist.
Summary of Survey Conducted on Commercial Development in the City of Fort Worth
Published December 2022
Methodology and Respondents
The online survey was conducted during the months of September and October 2022.
Seventy-four (74) respondents completed the survey.
Respondents are those in commercial development and related consulting (24%), construction (23%), design (31%) and other related commercial development-related professions (22%).
Eighty-one percent (81%) of respondents have been involved in three or more development projects in Fort Worth during the most recent 24-months and 74% of respondents have been involved in five or more development projects during the most recent 24-months.
In order to focus on the most informed respondents with wide perspectives, those respondents below were limited to those who were familiar with the entire development process, had completed 2 or more projects in Fort Worth and 1 or more projects outside of Fort Worth in the last 24 months.
The most challenging part of the development process in Fort Worth is infrastructure delivery (roads, water, sewer, storm drainage) 43%, followed by building development (permits, inspections) 23%.
“There needs to be options to let competent private sector solutions meet this need. The legal trappings are awful. We just finished an IPRC Project Manual - Only took 9 months!.”
“X Team and Project Facilitators are great to work with, but the ancillary departments that they interact with are much slower in response time.”
“Every tenant is considered a change of use even if they are the same use and not remodeling. Landlords are asking me to "get out of having a C of O".
The most challenging part of the entitlement portion of the development process in Fort Worth is platting 51.6%, followed by zoning/comprehensive plan 39.53%
“Studies being required to be approved before processing plats kills schedule. Although the state passed a house bill about this, many cities have found ways to allow simultaneous review.”
“ See Austin's Affordability Unlocked and Dallas's Density Bonus for examples. This will help reduce parking, excess paving, help reduce flooding, fights with neighborhoods NIMBY at Zoning and Council mtgs, and generally unclog the zoning system, all while helping the City with their affordable housing goal, for free.”
The overall development process in Fort Worth is getting worse (52%), the same (24%) with some seeing the process getting better (24%).
"Development Services is getting better, but other departments are getting worse.”
“The process is lengthy due to what appears to be zero risk policy but they are at least trying to reduce that length in some aspects.”
"No one has authority to make a decision.”
In terms of improving the current City development staff, 54% of respondents believe efforts should be focused on promoting a culture of problem solving (when looking at just commercial development and related consulting respondents that rises to 70% ) and 40% of respondents believe efforts should be focused on empowering staff to make decisions. Knowledgeability and Training was offered as a 3rd option and 0% chose this as an area to focus on.
“If lower staff could be presented with a logical solution to a permit comment, zoning comment, etc. then middle and upper mgmt can have more time to train and work on overall policies (like affordable housing bonuses, etc.) that would reduce the overall burden on a larger scale. But now they have to resolve one problem on one development at a time.”
“General attitude is most developers are liars and burden of proof is to prove negatives constantly. This is because the few bad actors are caught red handed and get a slap on the wrist. No other cities operate this way.”
Respondents were asked if interdepartmental cooperation across all city departments involved in the development process has improved. 68% answered no, or no and getting worse. 26% said yes, but more improvement needed, and 5% said yes.
“Communication from Project Facilitator is there, but there needs to be simpler systems for everyone at all levels to solve problems and prioritize as needed.”
“Some improvements have happened, but the "I don't work for Randall" has been replaced with "I don't work for DJ."
When Asked if the X Team provided a good value 62% answered no.
“People from the city missed the meeting. Very insulting to the tenant for an expensive meeting.”
"Ann Nace was great to work with and helpful at all stages in coordinating permit approval. Greatly accelerates the permitting process and allows internal city staff to birddog other departments to obtain responses and clearances rather than the developers or their consultants.”
When Asked if Obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy was a positive experience 61% answered no.
“Every tenant is treated as a Change of Use. Landlords are asking me to "get out of having a C of O."
“Mostly yes... There has been progress made but it still needs improvements and simplification.”
When asked which development-related department should receive the most improvement efforts, 43% of respondents said Water, 39% said Development Services, with the remainder mentioning various departments. When reviewing responses exclusively from development and related consulting professionals, 55% say Water, 9% say Development Services, 9% say TPW and 9% say Code/Health.
“After weeks of emailing the Water Department for a response, I regularly feel terrible for having to email Chris Harder or DJ. It shouldn't be necessary but unfortunately is a regular occurrence.”
"Need to continue to try and streamline plan review. Burleson is a good example.”
When asked which development-related department has improved most in recent 24-months, 66% said Development Services with the remainder mentioning various departments. When reviewing responses exclusively from development and related consulting professionals, 82% said Development Services.
"Development Services is doing a pretty good job. The other departments are the same or getting worse.”
“I have seen Development Services trying to analyze its own processes which is great.”
When asked if there was another city that the respondent felt did an exceptionally good job that Fort Worth staff could study to improve their development process, the #1 response was San Antonio, TX followed by a 3 way tie between Arlington, Frisco and Houston.
San Antonio -“They actually return calls and emails.”
Arlington and Frisco -“Tough but predictable. Decision makers are accessible, and they are final.”
In wrapping up the survey, respondents were asked to identify one part of the development process in Fort Worth they would change and explain what and how they would do so. Most answers generally can be classified as 1) Instill a culture of problem solving across all departments and down to the customer interface level as is the norm in most cities and 2) Resolve city’s internal process conflicts between departments and remove the expectation that the customer resolve them on their own:
“The culture needs to be changed - the majority of staff have a negative attitude. The good ones are over worked and the slackers continue to slack - there are no consequences or rewards.”
“Triple fees and use them to bonus the staff who get things done.”
“Once you get upper managers, dept directors involved, CFW staff does genuinely help push items through/brainstorm about code exceptions permitting, IPRC/CFA, etc.”
“There is only one development process in the City of Fort Worth, and it doesn't work. Divide and conquer won't work because of the tremendous inter-relationship between departments.”
“I would streamline the process. Instead of having to submit 10 different things to 10 different people, it would be nice to have a dedicated person to coordinate the project on the city side.”
“Water, Fire, TPW and the other outside departments need to lead, follow or get out of the way. If they don't want to do their jobs related to development, move them under DJ or privatize those functions.”
Want to dig into the data?
You can now view the 2022 survey results by clicking the button below.
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.