Arlington, Texas—2022 State of the City

On October 19, Mayor Jim Ross gave his annual State of the City address. The event drew a packed crowd and was available to watch on Facebook, YouTube, and MyArlingtonTV. The mayor’s 50-minute speech looked at Arlington’s current and future state.

While I couldn’t attend the event, I watched it online. Here are some highlights and my takeaways.

Introduction

Mayor Ross’ State of the City address began with a video montage of “We Are Arlington,” a campaign highlighting diversity throughout the city. Topics in his speech included tourism, growth, development, investments, small businesses, neighborhoods, transportation, downtown, philanthropy, and education.

Tourism

A large portion of Mayor Ross’ address focused on tourism. Tourism remains a vital part of Arlington and our identity, and the economic impact is undoubtedly substantial. The Entertainment District continues to grow, and I’ve joked to myself that one day it will engulf the whole city. This year, the Texas Rangers celebrated their 50th anniversary in Arlington. Ross’s speech included video clips from the documentary “Journey to Baseball Town,” which was released earlier this year and told how the team arrived in Arlington. Mayor Ross acknowledged Mayor Vandergriff’s efforts to bring the team to Arlington, amid many other accomplishments, and stated that he helped lay the foundation for Arlington’s future growth.

The Entertainment District hosts many high-profile events each year, including sports, concerts, conventions, and more. Sports significantly impact the city, especially the Dallas Cowboys and their stadium. Cowboys Stadium is a tremendous asset for Arlington, as it hosts some of the largest events in North Texas. The stadium is the site of many events besides football. Yet, it’s only one of three sports stadiums in the city—four if you count the Esports Stadium.

The XFL, a slightly different game of football from the NFL, is relaunching in 2023. Arlington’s Choctaw Stadium is the hub for all eight teams and the league’s headquarters. Choctaw Stadium, formerly known as Globe Life Park and, before that, The Ballpark in Arlington, remains a busy site, as it was repurposed by the city. In addition to being the home for the North Texas SC (Soccer Club), Dallas Jackals rugby team, and now, the Arlington Renegades of the XFL, it hosts other events. It also has office space for several organizations, including the Arlington CVB, Six Flags, and others.

Growth and Investments

Arlington’s growth is strategic, with many large projects and events coming soon. Loews Arlington, a hotel and convention center with 888 rooms and 200,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, is scheduled to open in early 2024. Later that year, the National Medal of Honor Museum is expected to open. Construction recently began on One Rangers Way, a 300-unit apartment community of luxurious resort-style homes. And, it was recently announced that the FIFA World Cup is coming to Arlington in 2026.

When speaking about the World Cup, Mayor Ross was humble to point out that Arlington didn’t attract this event on its own. It took collaboration with other cities in North Texas and outside resources. He stated that the region is “stronger together,” implying that there should be less competition amongst the cities. “There’s enough divisiveness going around in this world that we don’t need it in our backyard,” he said. He then added, “Because folks, one of the best things about our community—is our neighbors,” referring to Dallas, Fort Worth, and the other cities nearby that help make North Texas a great place to visit and live.

Along with growth comes investments. There was $65 million spent on city street improvements in 2022 alone. General Motors recently invested $55 million in their Arlington Assembly Plant, further showing their commitment to our city. Lincoln Square, a once-thriving and beloved shopping center, is receiving a $250 million redevelopment investment. Expect office space, retail, and housing to breathe new life into the area while making it more walkable and livable.

New construction projects and employment opportunities are plentiful, including companies like Prologis and Wallbox moving to Arlington. With growth comes growing pains, but that’s nothing new for Arlington.

Small Business and Diversity

“Small business is the backbone of every community,” said Mayor Ross. He outlined how to attract small businesses to Arlington, including providing sufficient retail or office space, high-performing schools, safe neighborhoods, and a welcoming attitude.

Mayor Ross congratulated Arlington’s Canales Furniture on their expansion, as they recently relocated their distribution center and headquarters to the former Fry’s Electronics building near I-20 and Matlock. From humble beginnings in 2002, Canales Furniture now has 19 furniture showrooms in North Texas, embodying the American Dream spirit of Arlington. They’re also passionate about supporting the community.

He pointed out that “Arlington is one of the most diverse communities in the country.” Of Arlington’s 400,000 residents, 20% were born in a different country. Arlington has a vibrant Hispanic, Latino, and Vietnamese population. Many small businesses are owned by minorities.

He also announced that Labor Day weekend 2023 will be the inaugural “American Dream Fest.” It’s a festival in Downtown Arlington celebrating the unique cultural diversity of our city with music, food, art, and special events. I’m looking forward to this!

Transportation

“Transportation is always a big issue,” said Mayor Ross. The City of Arlington, and its 400,000 people, don’t have buses or trains for public transportation. Instead, we have VIA, which is an on-demand ridesharing service. Most of the vehicles are six-passenger vans. The rides are relatively inexpensive at $3 to $5 per person per trip, depending on the distance. (While it can be used as a cheaper alternative than Uber, Lyft, or parking at the stadiums, it is also used day-to-day for other needs.) There are also weekly and monthly passes available. The program was introduced in 2017 to service downtown but has recently expanded to the entire city. Arlington City Council recently voted to keep the service through 2024, with further renewals available. To date, more than 1.3 million passengers have utilized VIA. While the program provides a valuable service, many folks don’t consider it as public transportation, and it might not be sustainable for the long term. Then again, public transportation should evolve and meet the needs of its users.

Other transportation options have potential, but they often take years and millions of dollars to come to fruition.

“We need something now,” said Mayor Ross. He announced a plan to launch a regional, tri-city transportation program connecting Arlington, Mansfield, and Grand Prairie, utilizing the VIA rideshare model. If everything goes well, it could start in 2023.

Finally, Mayor Ross revealed that TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) assured that the I-30 and 360 interchange project would be complete in 2023. I admire his enthusiasm, but I’ll believe it when I see it! That area is a mess.

Neighborhoods, Civil Services, and Education

Arlington has more than 104,000 single-family homes, although it isn’t clear what percentage are occupied or new construction. Still, it reveals that most of our residents live in homes and not apartments.

The city added 45 new firefighter positions to improve response time. The city also gave a raise to city employees to attract and retain the best talent. Mayor Ross also announced that crime was down 4% compared to 2021, although he didn’t discuss specifics.

UTA continues to be a higher-education leader and appears on numerous collegiate rankings, while Tarrant County College Southeast campus is growing to meet demand. Texas Southern University (of Houston) will soon open an administrative and recruitment office here and possibly a future North Texas campus in Arlington. The Mayor’s Education Coalition, a new program that started last year, continues to focus on the community’s educational needs.

Mayor Ross recognized the city council and others in city leadership, showing appreciation for their hard work. He also expressed gratitude for the Arlington Tomorrow Foundation, which celebrated its 15th year of giving and philanthropy.

Downtown

Downtown Arlington continues its dynamic growth and revitalization, becoming a vibrant place where folks can live, work, play, and visit. Urban Union remains a popular downtown area, with dining, drinks, and entertainment options. Downtown is becoming more livable and walkable, with a grocery store opening earlier this year and the city adding more than 7,300 feet of new sidewalks.

Cultural events are popular downtown. Arlington Museum of Art had one of its most popular exhibits this summer: “Disney Art from Private Collections.” Over 70,000 people attended concerts this year at Levitt Pavilion.

Next year, Downtown Arlington is getting a few new amenities. These include reopening Fire Station #1 after demolition and remodeling, a public space paying tribute to the old mineral well, and a new “pay-what-you-can” restaurant.

Conclusion

While this was my first time watching a State of the City address, I enjoyed it. It was a thorough look at our city, and intriguing to learn more about Arlington’s current and future plans.

“The state of the city is phenomenal,” said Mayor Ross in his closing remarks.

Overall, I’d agree, noting that growth, diversity, and collaboration are keys to our city’s success.


Blog post by Jason S. Sullivan, 12-19-22

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