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Tarrant County College seeks use for its old TXU plant on Trinity

By Scott Nishimura
snishimura@bizpress.net

The Tarrant County College District board is taking initial steps toward finding a group interested in redeveloping the 100-year-old former TXU power plant it owns on the Trinity River north of downtown.

The board voted Thursday night to explore the use, sale, or lease of the power plant. The college district staff will issue requests for qualifications from developers and others interested in the site, said Louise Appleman, board president.

“We need to determine what’s most logical, cost-effective, and expedient before we take the next step,” Appleman said in an interview.

The college district obtained the property from TXU as part of TCC’s plan for developing its downtown campus and potentially crossing the river with it.

The requests for qualification will seek ideas and qualifications from groups interested in the site, “but not necessarily a timeline or fiscal plan,” Appleman said.

A range of factors held up the board’s decision on the TXU plan, including a land swap with the Tarrant Regional Water District completed earlier this year, the status of the Trinity River Vision plan, and the renovation of the downtown Heritage Park, Appleman said.

“We should have done this 10 years ago,” she said.

The college district will consider “almost anything, in the box or out of the box,” she said.

A tear-down of the structure “would be at the very bottom of the list,” she said.

Numerous ideas have been floated to the college district over the years, from a creative arts performance space to an aquarium, she said. The plant sits on the edge of what will become an urban lake under the Trinity River Vision plan.

Whatever the use that emerges for the plant, it “would have to be compatible” with TCC’s downtown holdings and activities, Appleman said.

She expects the proposals the college district gets to vary widely, based on the pro formas of each group.

“I think it will be all over the place,” she said. “I think it will be fascinating to see what ideas people come up with.”

She did not rule out a potential partnership under which the college district is a partner, and said the "use" and "lease" wording was designed to leave open all possibiities.

But of a partnership, she said, “you have to be really careful with something like that. We’re very conscious of the fact that we’re dealing with taxpayer money here.”

Appleman cautioned prospective development groups that the project will be difficult and the college district will work to aggressively find a buyer that can deliver on its promise.

“We want it done right. It won’t be an easy renovation," she said. "It’s going to be tedious and expensive for whoever does it.”

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