BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Fort Worth government and business leaders and Texas A&M University System officials are working together on plans to build a new downtown research campus to spur innovation and business development.
The shared vision is to create a hub for collaboration between key Fort Worth industries and top research, education and workforce training assets of the Texas A&M System.
The shared goal is to spur business and job growth in one of the nation’s fastest growing cities and throughout North Texas.
The Texas A&M System Research and Innovation Center would be constructed alongside a new Education Alliance Building, which would host conferences and house professional, technical and university courses offered by the Texas A&M School of Law, Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University, the Texas A&M Health Science Center and other alliance members.
The innovation center and new education building would form the nucleus of a new urban campus along with a new, state-of-the art Law School at 1515 Commerce Street. The buildings would be constructed in phases beginning with the Research and Innovation Center.
“The A&M System is making a Texas-sized commitment to Fort Worth,” Chancellor John Sharp said. “Welcome to Aggieland North.”
The System owns four blocks in the area and the City of Fort Worth has nearby property that could become available. The area is next to two major attractions, the Convention Center and Water Gardens. It is a short walk from two public transportation stations and close to two interstate highways, providing easy access to the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and surrounding region. The City is planning a convention center expansion, more hotel rooms and other nearby improvements.
A memorandum outlining the aspirations for the Texas A&M System’s Urban Campus in Fort Worth was signed last week by representatives of the A&M System, the city, Tarrant County and Fort Worth Now, a privately-funded group formed to help businesses and economic growth in aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Civic leaders are looking for help from a top research university to strengthen the area’s industrial and employment base. Results from the 2020 Census show Fort Worth has a population of nearly one million residents and is growing faster than any major U.S. city. However nearly half of the 1.2 million adults in Tarrant County (age 25 and older) lack a college degree. One in four county households has an annual income below $30,000.
The A&M Research and Innovation Center will house a wide range of initiatives involving the System’s network of state agencies. Discussions so far include programs in emergency response communication, medical technologies, advanced manufacturing, nutrition, biotechnology, medical laboratory science and nursing.
Six notable Fort Worth employers — Alcon, AT&T, Bell, Elbit Systems of America, Lockheed Martin, and Philips — are interested in collaborating in particular research areas. An incubator for business startups might relocate to the A&M center.
The System agencies involved would be Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
A new Law School would serve as the front door and academic anchor of the urban campus.
The current law school is housed in the former Southwestern Bell call switching facility that was converted for office use. The school also uses leased space in a nearby building. The plan envisions renovating or rebuilding the law school to accommodate growth and provide a state-of-the art educational environment.
Since the A&M System acquired the law school eight years ago, it has experienced the largest jump to its reputational score of any law school in the United States. It recently passed its Texas counterparts at Baylor University and the University of Houston in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings.
Another partner would be Tarleton State University, a member of the A&M System that already has a Fort Worth campus along the Chisholm Trail Parkway and leased space downtown at Baylor All Saints Medical Center for nursing and other medical-related fields. Tarleton would move its health-related offerings to the new urban campus so students are close to their clinical assignments at nearby hospitals, clinics and labs.
The memorandum signed last week is a non-binding statement of the parties’ intentions. It allows discussions and planning to become more detailed in the coming months. Construction of the buildings would require a series of approvals from the Board of Regents, although the law building has been in the Board’s capital improvement plan for several years.
Key parts of the plans also will need approval from the Fort Worth City Council and Tarrant County Court of Commissioners.
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