FORT WORTH — Sometimes, the best city block is really a circle.That’s the case with Bluebonnet Circle on south University Drive, forming the heart of the Bluebonnet Hills and Bluebonnet Place neighborhoods and others southwest of downtown Fort Worth.The city’s first-ever Better Block party Saturday was staged by residents, businesses and members of Mayor Betsy Price’s Steer FW young professionals task force to show how the vintage traffic circle could be reimagined and improved.“We really rally around the word community,” said Kyle Jensen, Steer FW’s neighborhood outreach liaison and president of the nearby Mistletoe Heights Neighborhood Association.For one afternoon, thousands of dollars in trees, bushes and other plants on loan from nurseries were positioned to show what new landscaping could look like, while arts and crafts vendors, food trucks, a temporary dog park and children’s area created a street festival atmosphere.Traffic on the circle was reduced to one lane from two to create space in front of businesses for mingling. The temporary showcase was paid for by Steer FW and grants from foundations, private citizens and businesses.Bluebonnet Circle is one of 16 city-designated urban villages with a comprehensive plan for revitalization. That plan includes eventually slowing and lessening the impact of traffic around the circle.According to the city, Bluebonnet Circle’s design encourages pedestrian-friendly redevelopment. The character of the surrounding residential neighborhoods and the availability of public transportation enhance this vision. Bluebonnet Circle was constructed in 1929, and is the only remaining result of a 1927 street plan that emphasized traffic circles. Commercial development around it came along in the 1950s, and the park at the circle’s center was created in 1951.Many residents are proactive about reviving the neighborhood associations and sprucing up the circle, whether they’ve been there two decades or two months.Laurie Boyd Davis and her husband are empty-nesters who moved from their southwest Fort Worth condo two months ago to a “project house” that was still in the original owner’s family.“We looked all over the older neighborhoods and felt this one was ripe for a reboot,” she said. “It’s got a village atmosphere, and we’ve met more people in the last two months than we met the last two years in our condo.”Ann Zadeh, who has lived in her vintage 1942 home since 1992, is glad to see the neighborhood association rebuilding, and the circle itself in line for a little redevelopment. She found the Big Reveal on Saturday “a little intense,” but a good representation of the possibilities.Business owners’ reactions to Saturday’s circle party were supportive, though several shop owners complained about traffic snarls due to the reduced lane, and their storefront parking being disrupted by the festival.“I was really excited about it,’ said hair stylist Cozzette LaBelle, owner of BB 63 Salon on the north side of the circle. “I’ve heard mixed reviews from others.”LaBelle moved her salon to the circle “as a last resort” about 18 months ago, after being displaced when her historic building in the Victory Arts Center was sold.She has embraced the area, though, and so have her longtime customers.“My clients say it’s really cool, though it needs a facelift,” LaBelle said.The relaxed eclecticism of the shops, eateries and professional offices on the circle is matched by the diversity of the newer residents, and nearby Texas Christian University students.It was easy to see the possibilities on a clear, cool September afternoon as children played with handmade wooden toys, dogs frolicked and passers-by ate apple streusel from Greenwood’s German restaurant.“Fort Worth is changing to a more user-friendly place,” observed Martha Jones, a Bluebonnet Hills resident since 1988.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657 Twitter: @shirljinkins