A review committee has asked city transportation planners to come up with a new design for a sidewalk on 10th Street near Forest Park Boulevard that would save cutting down three, 50-year-old live oak trees in its path.
The Downtown Design Review Board recently approved the city’s request for a smaller, five-foot wide sidewalk on the north side of 10th Street, from Fournier Street to Forest Park Boulevard, but sided with an adjacent land owner, the American Association of Professional Landmen, that the trees are too nice to destroy.
The sidewalk is being done at the request of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., a booster organization, to provide safe pedestrian access to the Trinity Trails for the growing number of downtown residents and the nearby elderly residents of Trinity Terrace, who have been asking for a sidewalk. A designated crosswalk across Forest Park to Trinity Park and a bike lane are also a part of the planned project.
The planned sidewalk and the trees are in the city’s right-of-way, but the city was required to seek a variance because the proposed sidewalk width was at least two feet smaller than required by code. The city has about 10 feet to work with on that stretch of the street to install a bike lane and the sidewalk. It also has about $135,000 to work with from 2014 bond money.
The amount is not enough to do the full sidewalk width, because if that was done, the project would require a costly retaining wall based on terrain. Estimates pushed project costs closer to $200,000. City planners presented a few options to the DDRB, including one showing the sidewalk going around the trees, but it had turns that would make it difficult for people in wheel chairs and with other mobility issues to maneuver.
It also meant the bike path would not be straight, causing a potential hazards for bicyclists, they said.
In approving the sidewalk, the DDRB recommended a more gradual change in the sidewalk’s path around the trees.
“There’s an opportunity for a win-win here that can retain those trees,” said board member James Richards. “There’s not a need to have 90-degree turns.”
If the city had enough money for the full sidewalk and required work, the project could have been approved in-house. The city said it would replace the three trees with nine trees spanning the entire block.
Julia Ryan, a city transportation planner, said the city looked at putting the sidewalk on the south side of 10th Street, but the speed of traffic turning east from Forest Park onto 10th Street made the pedestrian crosswalk more hazardous than having it on the north side of 10th Street.
I happen to drive this every day and see people walking and riding bikes in a fairly unsafe condition. Trail access is going to become more and more important. People want to get there in a safe manner.
Melissa Konur, Downtown Fort Worth Inc.’s planning director
“We initiated this project as part of our strategic action plan,” said Melissa Konur, Downtown Fort Worth Inc.’s planning director. “I happen to drive this every day and see people walking and riding bikes in a fairly unsafe condition. Trail access is going to become more and more important. People want to get there in a safe manner.”
Tenth Street does have bike lanes, but they end at Penn Street, as does a sidewalk. The grass on the block without the sidewalk is clearly trampled by pedestrians.
The association disputed whether the trees are in the city’s right-of-way or on their property, but were more adamant that they remain because they provided a screen from their offices of the city’s historic Holly Water Treatment Plant on 10th Street at Forest Park, which treats about 180 million gallons of drinking water a day.
The 18,000-member association said it bought the property, the former Keith Law Firm building at 1705 W. Seventh St., in March 2014 for $4 million, in part for the trees. Executives previously told the DDRB that losing the trees would drop their land value by six figures.
Justin Light, the group’s lawyer, said they have spent a lot of money to maintain the trees and recently paid an arborist to assess their condition.
“We’re for having a sidewalk, but we want it to be done in a right way that it doesn’t negatively affect our property and our property value, and really the view all the employees have when they’re at work every single day,” Light said.