James R. Toal

June 16, 1947December 22, 2013

James Toal, a Fort Worth planning and economic development expert who was instrumental in a wide array of local and statewide projects ranging from the Trinity River Vision master plan to playing a major role in the planning of the downtown Fort Worth redevelopment, died Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. James, a Fort Worth native, was 66. While James was involved in numerous public and private ventures during his more than 40-year professional career, he is best known for his leading role in developing the Trinity River Vision and the Trinity Uptown project plan to transform the industrial area north of the Trinity River into a mixed-use extension of Downtown Fort Worth. James' passion in life was protecting, enhancing and beautifying Fort Worth waterfronts, particularly along the Trinity River that stretches through Greater Fort Worth. Much of his work was done as a volunteer urban planner and advisory board member for Fort Worth Streams and Valley, Inc. Service: A small graveside service for family and close friends will be held at noon Saturday, Dec. 28, in Shannon Rose Hill Cemetery, followed by a public memorial celebration at 2 p.m. at the Tarrant County College Downtown Trinity River Campus, 300 Trinity Campus Circle, with a reception to follow at the Sundance Square Pavilion. Public parking for the memorial celebration will be located in the TCC structured parking garage at the intersection of North Cherry Street and West Belknap Street. The celebration will be located on the second floor adjacent to the Riverfront Cafe overlooking the Trinity River. There will be a reception following the public celebration at the Sundance Square Plaza Pavilion located at Main and Third streets downtown. Memorials: Besides his family and friends, James' primary passion in life was protecting, enhancing, and beautifying the waterfronts of Fort Worth, especially the Trinity River. In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations be made to Fort Worth Streams and Valley Inc., support/donate. Streams & Valleys is a non-profit organization committed to saving, sharing and celebrating the Trinity River. James was born on June 16, 1947, to the late Kenneth and Ellen Toal. He graduated in 1965 from Burleson High School. In 1969 he earned a bachelor of science in landscape architecture degree from Texas A&M University. He would later earn a master of liberal arts from Southern Methodist University in 1978 and a master's of public administration from Texas Christian University in 1982. After graduating from Texas A&M, James joined the City of Fort Worth planning department as a planner and transferred to the City Park and Recreation Department as an assistant planning director. In 1979, James was named director of the City Planning and Growth Management Department by City Manager Bob Herchert, a role he filled with distinction until 1985, when he left to form the James Toal Company. James was proud to point out that his first major project when joining the city staff was the Japanese Garden. His most recent project was working to update the master plan for the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. James' public sector work included spearheading the major redevelopment of Downtown Fort Worth by the Bass and Hunt families, as well as directing the public elements of the real estate and overall economic boom in city development that occurred in the early 1980s. With the launch of The James Toal Company, James kicked off a successful private sector career that focused on providing strategic planning and implementation work for many partners. James' most high-profile private sector projects include serving as a key member of a team which was formed to successfully realign and redevelop Carswell Air Force Base into Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth following a federal government decision to close a number of military installations around the country in the early 1990s. James is also recognized for creating the 1994 and 2003 Downtown Fort Worth master plans for Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. which has contributed to Downtown Fort Worth becoming one of the most vibrant and attractive city centers in the country. James went on to develop the Amarillo Downtown plan and financing district, an Austin Central City Mobility Plan and an Abilene Downtown Town Plan, among many other successful projects. In 1993, James became the founding partner of Gideon Toal, Inc. At Gideon Toal, James and Randy Gideon continued to lead innumerable major development efforts and urban development projects that helped change the face of Tarrant County cities and communities throughout the state of Texas. He retired from Gideon Toal in 2010. During his early days with the city, James developed what would become a lifelong love of Fort Worth's Trinity River through his introduction to the Fort Worth Streams and Valley organization. He would later provide strategic planning and implementation expertise and serve on the organization's advisory committee for the duration of his career. Ultimately, James' work with Streams and Valleys led him to become the visionary Fort Worth planning expert for Trinity River Vision, a master 10-year plan for the Trinity River and its major tributaries in the Greater Fort Worth -- a plan championed by Congresswoman Kay Granger. As part of his work on the Trinity River Vision, he also helped develop the Trinity Uptown mixed use design and the economic development plan which included creation of a financing district. He also developed the Trinity Uptown design standards that will set the tone for development for years to come. The Trinity River Vision has won acclaim as a bold effort to extend Downtown Fort Worth to north of the river which has brought together a wide array of partners, ranging from the federal government to local private developers. Concurrently, James was a key contributor to a number of major Fort Worth projects in the public and private sectors. He lead site selection and economic strategic planning for the RadioShack Corporate campus in the early 2000s, now a Tarrant County College downtown campus, and was Tarrant County College's lead expert for site selection and strategy implementation in the creation of a new downtown campus east of the Tarrant Count Courthouse. He also developed a new Fort Worth Botanic Garden Master Plan in 2012. The list of projects in which James was instrumental are numerous and include: University of North Texas Master Plan, Texas Wesleyan University Master Plan, Lancaster Avenue Redevelopment Plan, Tax Increment Financing District and Development Guidelines, Camp Bowie Improvement District Plan, Acme Brick headquarters economic development strategy, Dallas Naval Air Station Redevelopment Strategy, Grapevine Airport 2000 Development Plan, Montgomery Plaza Development and Economic Strategy Plan, Fort Worth Stockyards Redevelopment Plan, a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Strategy and Corporation Relocation plan, Botanic Research Institute of Texas site selection and others. James' work on economic development included the Bank One Economic Strategy, the City of Temple financing district plan, the Pier I corporate campus plan and the Southeast Fort Worth Economic Development Action Plan. During the course of his career, James received numerous awards including the 2009 Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Spirit of Enterprise Award, the 2007 Texas Society of Architects' Firm of the Year Award, the 2004 Excellence on the Waterfront Gold Award from The Waterfront Center, the 1986 Texas Business Magazine's "Rising Star of Texas" recipient and the 1996 Citizen of the Year from the Fort Worth Civic Leaders Association. James was an active member of the American Planning Association, the City Planners Association and the Society for College and University Planning. Survivors: James is lovingly survived by his daughter, Tina Toal Maness and son-in-law, Michael Maness; son, Justin Toal and daughter-in-law, Leigh Toal; grandson, Declan Toal; granddaughters, Molly Maness-Roberson and Katy Maness and their respective spouses, Keri Roberson and Dillon Coggins; great-grandchild, Elizabeth Maness-Roberson; sister, Kay Ball, brother-in-law Hershell Ball, their children, Becky Ball and James Ball; and many beloved cousins, nieces and nephews. In their hearts and minds, he will always be "Daddy James."


  • Celebration of Life Saturday, December 28, 2013

James R. Toal

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Wendy Stephenson

July 23, 2014

I had the pleasure of spending quality time with James one summer. He was an amazing man. He would share words of encouragement with others and he recognized the good qualities in people. He was compassionate and caring. My prayers our with his children and grandchildren. He cherished his family. He would do anything for them. He knew how much they loved him. He loved his family. God bless his family and friends.

Karra Guess

January 25, 2014

I had the privilege of working with James for years on the RadioShack corporate headquarters (now the TCC building), and most of the finished project was the realization of his incredible vision for Fort Worth. I adored James and will miss him. He was a brilliant man who had such a way about him: he could bring people together in ways others cannot. My deepest sympathy to James' family.

Lesa Houston

January 15, 2014

James Toal was a stalwart in the Cowtown community who left his professional touch on just about every major development in Fort Worth.My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to his family.

Tami Joyner

January 15, 2014

My heartfelt sympathy goes out to Mr. Toal's family and friends. I did not know him but know his sister, Kay. My prayers go out to this family. Sounds like one amazing man.

Marilee Samuelson

January 14, 2014

Had the pleasure of working for "Jimmy Bob" for about 10 years, starting with the James Toal Company and ending with Gideon Toal. Every day was a new adventure. He was the nicest funniest most genuine person. Fort Worth is so much richer because of his efforts. I still walk through downtown Fort Worth every day and smile at the incredible changes. He will be missed.

December 31, 2013

I've known James (Jimmy, as we called him back in the day) since 3rd grade in Burleson, where we were in the same class all the way through high school graduation. We also went to the same church so we were in Sunday School class and youth groups together, our parents were in an adult Sunday School class together, so while we did not stay in close contact as adults, the roots go deep. I was aware of some of his work, through such things as his Distinguished Alumni award the year of our 30th high school reunion, and through my friendship with his former partner Randy Gideon, but I didn't realize that what I knew only scratched the surface of his achievements. I do know that growing up with Jimmy was a delight. I remember putting together class floats for the homecoming parades at his house and I remember working on the annual staff with him our senior year. He was a remarkable man, who had strength of character, honesty, and intelligence, and he topped it off with such wit and humor! I will be keeping the family in my prayers.
Mary-margaret (Burns) Belota

Ric and Becky Grimland

December 28, 2013

Your family is in our prayers.

Kathe (Rawlins) Bernstein

December 28, 2013

I did not know him as "James" but only as "Jimmy" in our high school class of 1965. I last saw him at our 30th high school reunion where he won the Norwood Award as a distinguished alumni. Well, he certainly was! I had no idea until I read his obituary of all his amazing accomplishments. I know this is a great loss for his family and I've enjoyed being his Facebook friend over the last few years. My prayers are that Tina and Justin and all those who loved him will find peace and pride in his memory.

S. H. Sohmer Director, BRIT

December 28, 2013

An amazing LEED Platinum building now stands on the corner of University and Harley Streets. It stands on the very site where the Fort Worth Public Health Building used to stand. The location of this building is a testament to James Toal: a person I quickly learned to admire and respect from early in my tenure as director of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT). With his astute understanding of the people and the politics of this city he helped us work our way from a 10,000 sq ft warehouse in downtown Fort Worth, which was the original home of BRIT, to the most appropriate site in the city for this organization. We became friends and I always wished I had some of the great insight and equanimity he had. I was saddened to hear of his passing. Here was a person whose work, much of it unseen and in the background, will always stand as a fitting testament to his life, his career, and his ability.

December 28, 2013

James was a great guy and lots of fun! My fondest memory was us dancing all over the dance floor at the Arts Council Gala, Toast of the Town! He will truly be missed, but his legacy will live for centuries. Marie "Doc" Holliday, DMD