James Toal, a Fort Worth urban planner who had his hands in most of the city's largest development projects during the past several decades, died Sunday. He was 66.|
The Trinity River Vision, the ongoing $910 million flood-control and economic development project on Fort Worth's near north side, was the closest to Mr. Toal's heart and also the last project he consulted on.
Friends say Mr. Toal had been in poor health recently.
Protecting, enhancing and beautifying the waterfronts of Fort Worth, especially the Trinity River, was his passion, his family and friends said.
Mr. Toal coordinated the Trinity River Vision from its beginning around 2000 and spearheaded a two-year master-planning process that followed. Just about a month ago, J.D. Granger, the Trinity River Vision Authority's executive director, talked to him about the last phases of the project, which will involve the design of a 1 1/2-mile-long channel near downtown that will create an 800-acre island that in turn will create waterfront residential and commercial development.
"He saw potential and cared about our community," said Granger, who has known Mr. Toal for decades. "He loved to create great places for people to enjoy."
Friends describe Mr. Toal as a visionary, a mentor to young professionals, and someone who loved and respected people. His resume stretches from public and private real estate to urban design and economic development projects. He was adept at strategic planning.
Mr. Toal served as director of planning and growth management for the city of Fort Worth from 1979 to 1985, leading the city's planning support efforts for the major redevelopment of downtown by Fort Worth's Bass family. He left the city in 1986 to start his own firm, James Toal Co., which he ran until 1993. In 1993, he joined Gideon Toal as a principal and co-chairman, retiring in 2010.
Randy Gideon was Mr. Toal's business partner for nearly 20 years, but a close friend for much longer. The Trinity River Vision master plan and the redevelopment of downtown Fort Worth will be Mr. Toal's legacy, projects that have the greatest impact on the city in terms of development, Gideon said.
Mr. Toal was born June 16, 1947, in Fort Worth to Kenneth and Ellen Toal. He is survived by a daughter, Tina Toal Maness of Burleson, and a son, Justin Toal of Miami.
Mr. Toal earned a degree in landscape architecture from Texas A&M in 1969, a master's degree in liberal arts from Southern Methodist University in 1978 and a master's in public administration from TCU in 1982.
Tentative plans are for a family memorial service Saturday morning followed by a celebration of life service at the Tarrant County College Trinity River campus commons area along the riverfront on Saturday afternoon. A reception is also being planned that evening at the pavilion in Sundance Square Plaza.
Published in Star-Telegram on Dec. 24, 2013