Texas A&M and Fort Worth Approve Funding Agreement for Downtown Campus

On Tuesday evening, city leaders approved a multi-phased funding plan to make dreams of a $350 million downtown Texas A&M University campus a reality.

“I think this will have a huge impact on the downtown area that we’re trying to really revitalize,” District 9 Councilwoman Elizabeth Beck said. “I think that not only for downtown and the 9th district, but for the city of Fort Worth, this will be a step in the right direction.”

Texas A&M, which currently owns downtown land, will enter into a land lease with the city. The city will then develop real estate on the land with an outside developer, subdivide it into condominiums, and sublease some of those apartments back to the university until its debts to the city are paid off.

The agreement allows the city to fund a capital project without an overall commitment that requires voter approval before they are released. At the end of the lease, when the debt is fully repaid, the condominium apartments owned by the city will be transferred to the university.

A&M will also have the right to purchase and the pre-emptive right to purchase non-academic units owned by a third party developer.

Under the terms of the agreement, the city will establish a local government corporation, which will include a board of directors made up of council members, to accelerate the construction of two buildings: the research and innovation building and the Gate Convention Center building. The third, legal and academic building, will be designed and built exclusively by A&M.

The creation of a local public corporation allows the city to issue debt and finance the purchase of a condominium interest for future A&M divisions. It also eliminates the need for bond elections, such as the $560 million bond package approved by voters in 2022. City and university officials previously told Report that Texas A&M would guarantee any bonds issued by the city for the project, meaning taxpayers would not be affected.

A request for proposals has been issued to find a suitable developer to lead the design, construction and financing of buildings and surrounding campus space. This developer will control non-academic blocks of buildings. The city plans to select a developer by February, according to a report to council members.

The city will lease its parts of the buildings to A&M for academic and university purposes. According to the council’s report, the lease payments will cover all debt service and other pre-approved expenses associated with the development of portions of the campus used exclusively by A&M.

Texas A&M officials expect the partnership to reduce the design and construction time for the campus from more than 10 years to five to six years. The university has previously announced its intentions to partner with several major corporations, including Alcon, AT&T and Lockheed Martin, as well as Tarleton State University on the new campus.

The next step for the city and A&M is to sign a master development agreement and land leases after the two organizations discuss and agree on more specific lease terms. These leases must be approved by the system’s Board of Trustees.

The Fort Worth City Council boasts two A&M alumni in District 3, Beck and Michael Crane, who both shared their personal enthusiasm for the project.

“As a graduate of Texas A&M Law School, I got even more excitement because of my association with the school,” Beck said.

“Gig Em,” Crane said with a smirk as the final vote was taken.

At Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of board members and financial backers. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Emily Wolf is a reporter for the Fort Worth Report responsible for government reporting. Contact her at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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