FORT WORTH -- Company representatives presented their latest design for a Walmart Neighborhood Market on the south side Monday night, drawing plaudits for some changes in the plan but also getting requests to give up part of the parking lot for a park that would tie in the store better with the city's Hemphill/Berry Urban Village.
Wal-Mart is planning a store for a L-shaped site at the southwest corner of West Berry and Hemphill streets where Travis Avenue Baptist Church now has an annex. But a notch of the property right on the corner is not included in the deal, and neighborhood representatives said they fear that Wal-Mart or another company could buy the land and put in a gas station.
Although several residents said they were ready for a grocery store in the neighborhood, a few said they feared the retailing giant could kill family-owned ethnic restaurants and bakeries on Hemphill Street.
With Wal-Mart's request to rezone the site headed for the Fort Worth Zoning Commission on Wednesday, it appeared the company had met the city's objective criteria for factors such as the percentage of windows and masonry on its exterior walls. However, neighborhood representatives still expressed concern that the store and the site don't fit the Urban Village plan, which calls for pedestrian-friendly streetscapes and buildings that hug street fronts and sport lots of glass that show activity inside and invite people in.
The zoning commission, and ultimately the City Council, could still hold up Wal-Mart's plan.
The company is seeking four waivers from mixed-use zoning -- to put a parking lot in front of the building on the West Berry side, an exception from the maximum 20-foot setback rule on the West Berry side, the ability to build an 8-foot wall on the building's south side to screen the truck delivery lane, and an exception to a requirement to screen the loading dock area.
"As it stands right now, I can't support it," said Fernando Florez, a neighborhood representative.
Sandra Dennehy, an architect and president of the Berry Street Initiative, told Wal-Mart representatives that the building "looks great," and she noted it was Wal-Mart's first proposal that met city requirements.
"As an architect, I'm going to say I'm OK with the look of the building," she said.
But Dennehy asked Wal-Mart to consider setting aside part of the parking lot along West Berry as a park. She also said her biggest concern was with the strip center that's notched into the northeast corner and not part of the Walmart market site. She said that corner is ideal for a service station, which she said would be devastating to the urban village concept.