In a bold, some may say brutal example of “highest and best use,” the City of Fort Worth has announced plans to sell the Fort Worth Zoo. Founded in 1909 with one lion, two bear cubs, an alligator, a coyote, a peacock, and a few rabbits the 110-year-old zoo is now home to some 7,000 animals. The 64-acre parcel will be subdivided into 172 lots for residential development.
“It was a difficult decision,” a city official was quoted as saying “But the land is just too valuable to keep as parkland. The offering is expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars which will add substantial capital to employee pension funds.”
The reaction was strong and swift. The prominent and powerful Perch family, longtime major zoo supporters, expressed their dismay through spokesperson Jocelyne Carp.
“We were just flabbergasted. It’s a sad day for the city,” said Carp. “Apart from protesting in the strongest possible terms, there is, apparently, little we can do from a legal standpoint,” she added.
The complicated mechanics of the mega-deal are being spearheaded by the outside legal team of Swindler, Mountebank & Conners.
“We’re so excited and proud to be a part of this project,” says lead attorney Jerry Swindler. “Already, interest is over-the-top explosive. The area abuts pricey Park Hill and should sell briskly. If all goes well, we hope to continue to work with the city on other projects and bond offerings,” he added.
The development will offer mixed-use living with the complex of administrative buildings being repurposed and converted into loft condominiums. Billionaire philanthropist Alice Bolton made an offer, rumored to be north of $100 million, for the 30,000-square-foot herpetarium known by the acronym MOLA. The offer was ultimately nixed by Animal Control who raised safety concerns over venomous reptiles housed in a residential setting.
“It’s a pity,” lamented Bolton. “I hope they preserve the structure. It would have made a wonderful home and the exhibits would have been fantastic backdrops for fundraisers.”
Plans to move the zoological park to a venue near Texas Motor Speedway ultimately floundered when animal advocacy groups including People for the Esoteric Treatment of Animals, objected to deafening and potentially stressful noise levels. Eventually, the city decided to sell lock, stock, and barrel. Most of the exhibits will make their way to other zoos across the country. A notorious pair of tapirs, affectionately known as Jeffrey and Roger, have already been purchased by the San Diego Zoo, which was pleased with the opportunity to welcome LGBT animals to their zoo family.
“The Fort Worth Zoo is rightly judged one of the best zoos in the country. It’s had a long run, but all good things must come to an end. Zoo lovers can still satisfy their cravings for human on animal contact at several area petting zoos,” opined city spokesman David Crikey. “And Fort Worth has the cultural district for a draw. The museums, which sit on choice Westside land, unfortunately for us, remain in private hands.”
And what’s to become of Iggy, the 40-foot Zoo mascot? Speculation is that the iconic iguana may land on a new perch atop popular Northside eatery, Joe T. Garcia’s.
Those who want to get their hands on architectural salvage from the Zoo should contact the demolition company with requests here.