(3) Here is where the opportunities to evolve the central core into a different and more sustainable place/neighborhood.
DFWI published its 2014-2015 Downtown Residential Survey of 2,456 households. The study found that these households spent each visit, $100.64 at clothing/retail businesses; $76.63 at restaurants; $48.49 at bars/pubs; and $35.99 at sundries. The average monthly spending by these households was $1,229.14. or $4 million spending per month from 2,456 households.
But where does that spending power come from? Where do the people downtown who have it get it from? Before people can spend wealth, they must first somehow acquire it.
My strong guess is most downtown residents pay their bills out of the cash flow the get from having a job. Among the reasons people want to live in a downtown/urban setting is so that they can live close to work and not have the expense,time drain and hassle of sitting in traffic jams. To the degree that jobs leave downtown so goes a major reason why people want to live their in the first place - which means that such people will choose to live elsewhere and take the purchasing power from their jobs elsewhere..
And every single one of the examples of spending you mention are to industries that are notoriously low-paying and in which a large percentage of employees are part time. Not many, if any, retail, restaurant,or pub employees downtown earn enough money to afford to live downtown and and most probably don't earn enough to even patronize other downtown shops, restaurants or pubs very often.
And retail stores? We now live in a zone where Amazon Prime is able to offer same day shipping - even on Sundays. And there is now a beta test of Prime Wardrobe - you pick out some clothing items and Amazon will ship them to you to try on. Don't like them? You get free scheduled UPS pickup to send them back. Want to keep them? You get a discount depending on how many items you choose to keep. We are getting to the point where people like me who HATE the hassles associated with shopping will rarely have to go shopping.
My wider point is this: At the end of the day downtown's residential viability depends on decent paying jobs in reasonably close proximity. And high paying jobs are pretty few and far between in the retail, restaurant and hotel industries unless one happens to work in the corporate offices
(4) If Downtown Households could be increased (doubled), Downtown would be even more sustainable. The target should be 10k households. It is the city that should be giving incentives to achieve this goal.
Gee - you know it would be even more sustainable if the number of households could be tripled instead of doubled! Heck, while we are at it, why not just increase it ten-fold? Let's make the target 100k instead of 10k! With that kind of population, all sorts of cool things could be possible for downtown!
The only problem is: Where in heck are these additional number of households going to come from? Where are the jobs that will enable them to pay their rent and other bills going to come from?
City incentives? Where are they going to come from? The City of Fort Worth doesn't have a money tree. The only way the city can fund incentives is by either cutting existing services or by confiscating the funds from existing downtown or other Fort Worth residents. To the degree that existing residents begin to look upon this as a burden they will leave Fort Worth just as many people in our area came here in the first place to escape similar declines in services and the tax burdens which were imposed on them and their local economies in other regions of the country.
Doubling the population downtown is great. But that extra population must first have a reason to live there. And merely wanting to live there is not sufficient. I can think of any number of places where I would like to live. But I don't live in such places either because I cannot afford to or because it is difficult to earn a living in such places.
When areas experience a decline or rise in population (for reasons other than war or political upheaval), it is usually the result of the availability of jobs. The reason why cities and towns in many regions of the USA are smaller today than they were 100 years ago is because the jobs are no longer there. And those that are currently experiencing experiencing explosive population growth do so because people come from elsewhere to find better employment opportunities.
It is simply not possible to set a "target" to double the population of an area and achieve it without first addressing the fundamentals that make such an increase possible in the first place. In this case the fundamental is why will people want to and how can they afford to live downtown if there are not a sufficient number of jobs within a convenient radius to support their living there. Without addressing such things the "target" becomes little more than an exercise in wishful thinking. One can certainly do that if if one wants to - but why? Wishing does not make it so.
At the end of the day, if your premise is correct that downtown is no longer viable as an employment center for decent paying office jobs and that such jobs are doomed to move to the suburbs then that has serious ramifications about the continued viability of downtown as a desirable place to live.
If XTO has taught this City anything, it is that commercial business and their employment is never a sure thing. There is a real opportunity to look at the CBD as a tourist/entertainment district (CTD)
Please tell me of ANY sort of business or employment in today's world that is a "sure thing." If you know please advise as there is no shortage of people who would love to know what it is.
In truth, such a "sure thing" has never existed. But as technology continues to accelerates the speed of change, it is easy for people to look back at a period when the speed of change was slower and perceive it to have been more stable by comparison.
As the old saying goes "the only constant is change." I would go further and say that the only thing riskier than change and risk itself is the quest for a "sure thing."
And an entertainment district is anything but a "sure thing." Look at the turnover in tenants in the competing entertainment district down the street on West 7th. Bars, restaurants and entertainment are discretionary expenditures and tend to be the first area in which people cut back during economic downturns. A lot of very smart and savvy people in the restaurant and retail industry circa 2006 looked at current trends and aggressively opened new locations. The data they used suggested that the future demand was there - so they seized the opportunity to get in on the ground floor. In hindsight, of course, it is now clear that they simply did not realize how much the assumption behind their trends and thus their risk exposure was based on the overall health of the housing market and the stock market.
A hundred years ago the entertainment industry was dominated by vaudeville and silent pictures. Song hits were tracked by sheet music sales. Radio and a reduction in the price of phonograph records killed off sheet music sales. The advent of talking pictures killed off the vaudeville circuits in less than five years and threw thousands of musicians out of work because there was no longer a need for musical accompaniment to silent pictures. The big name stars of network radio were either thrown out of work by the advent of television or had to make the shift to television. The disc jockeys who subsequently dominated radio began to disappear with automation and satellite feeds - and now the future of both broadcast radio and television is in doubt with the advent of the Internet. Records gave way to CDs - and who buys those anymore?
Conventions and tourism? Both are mostly discretionary expenditures that get cut in a downturn. And there is no guarantee that such expenditures will return to their previous levels when the economy recovers. A hundred years ago Mineral Wells was a major tourist destination. In 1929 the lavish 14 story Baker Hotel whose ruin still dominates the skyline opened right as the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. When the Depression ended the tourist trade never came back - the only thing that kept the hotel and the city limping along was a military base that came along as the result of World War II. When the base eventually closed so did the hotel and the city and hotel declined to the state that you see them in today.
One of the things that is hurting retailers other than the rise of online sales is the fact that, after the economy began to recover, it became clear that Millennials turned out to be quite frugal and have nowhere near the degree of interest in buying "things" that their parents did. That has huge long term implications for industries that depend on discretionary consumer spending. Economic downturns lead people to make new habits. People who used to have a habit of eating out several times per week develop new habits of cooking at home or picking up prepared meals at the grocery store. When the economy recovers the new habits are set and they never again eat out with the same degree of frequently
And with regard to the tourism industry - that, of course, is closely tied to the health of the airline industry. Remember how airline travel and thus the tourism took a nasty hit in the aftermath of 9/11? What if such attacks return with regularity? Will people be less inclined to make business and leisure trips by plane? Will the security needed to prevent such attacks get to the point where travel related lines and hassles are even worse than they are now? If so, will people be therefore less inclined to travel? A few years ago energy prices were sky high and people were squawking about "peak oil." Then energy prices collapsed as new technologies and massive new discoveries of supply emerged. How many people at the time predicted this would happen? What if, for some reason, the situation completely flips back again? What impact would high fuel prices have on travel and tourism? When such factors eventually fade away, will people return to their former travel habits?
So you are correct. Commercial business and its employment is never a sure thing. And neither is anything else.
My point is that commercial business and it employment is currently one of the pillars that hold up the viability of many downtown buildings both in terms of the space that they occupy and the jobs they provide to the people who live in downtown housing. If commercial business goes away so does their demand for space and so do the jobs that make it possible for people to live downtown. There is a limit to how much hotel space downtown can support. And if we get to the point where downtown buildings become empty and downtown housing becomes increasingly low rent, then that is going to be a downward cycle that will make the area increasingly less enticing to tourists - just as there wasn't a lot of tourist activity in downtown in the 1970s when the area was depressed and many buildings were empty. One can't just say "well, if this pillar of economic activity that holds the area up goes away we will just do something else and it will work out because it is desirable and a lot of people wish for it to happen."
And, for the record, I have no particular reason to believe that commercial activity and jobs are going to be leaving downtown Fort Worth anytime soon - and there are some very smart people whose last name is Bass who will certainly do everything they can to prevent that. I am merely accepting your basic premise for the sake of argument and challenging you on what the implications would be.