Fort Worth

February 9, 2014

Spotlight on Frisco Heights

“We can help shape the neighborhood for what it’s going to be like in 20 to 50 years,” association President Paula Traynham said at a meeting last week.

Residents of one neighborhood near TCU may accept their lot of living in a community in transition, but they still intend to have a voice in how things change — and on what scale.

At least that’s how some of the two dozen people who attended last week’s Frisco Heights Neighborhood Association meeting said they feel.

“We can help shape the neighborhood for what it’s going to be like in 20 to 50 years,” association President Paula Traynham said.

They met at the stately St. Stephen Presbyterian Church, at McPherson and Merida avenues. Some of those in attendance walked to the meeting.

Though the agenda included a presentation from Texas Christian University student life officials, a police officer’s report on crime and a list of updates from the city’s Neighborhood Office, the big item was a future land-use map from the city that documented the proposed changes expected through 2015.

“What it really reflects is our new reality of less owner-occupied and single-family residences and more multifamily and apartments,” Traynham said.

The map, an overlay of a satellite photograph of the area, had lines drawn around housing areas that are expected to turn, plus black X’s on lots that are soon to be or already are cleared for redevelopment.

The long, narrow neighborhood of about 160 properties between Berry Street and Park Hill Drive has been assimilating into TCU for years as the university expands student housing, parking and classroom space to accommodate its growing enrollment.

Now, only about 63 houses are owner-occupied: Along Merida Avenue, only four owners are left.

One is Elizabeth Touchon, a retired nurse, who has lived there since her three children attended Paschal High School.

“I love it,” she said of her home. “I go on walks, and one of the things I do is talk to students, tell them to study hard.”

Still, she knows a time will come when she will take one of the developers’ offers and leave.

The earliest houses in Frisco Heights were built around 1925, but its proximity to TCU has always tipped the scale toward redevelopment and updating of many homes. Now, single-family homes, whether owner- or renter-occupied, are giving way to duplexes and apartment buildings.

TCU owns much of the land. Private companies develop and manage the new duplexes and apartment buildings.

The neighborhood pushback is aimed at the 2700 block of Sandage Avenue, east of Merida Avenue and still with seven owners and single-family zoning.

Neighborhood association members want to preserve the zoning and avoid a high-density designation, which they feel would open the door to undesirable redevelopment.

They intend to make their wishes known to the city’s planning department now, before the 2015 land-use map takes effect.

Owners miss the neighborhood feel of single-family homes and regret the loss of trees and green spaces, but the urban village life is also appealing — and is a much better situation than other historic neighborhoods might face, Traynham said.

“It’s fun to be in a university neighborhood,” said Carol Stalcup, one of the Sandage owners, who has lived in her home for 17 years. “It’s not like students haven’t always lived in the immediate neighborhood.

“But the amount of development is changing the neighborhood so much,” she continued. “We want to protect the integrity of the neighborhood, and that includes students.”

When single-family homes or duplexes dominated the neighborhood, students were renting them and a neighborly relationship could head off noise and parking issues, Traynham said, but a heavier-density arrangement destroys that dialogue.

“It’s a nostalgic thing,” said Traynham. “We miss the neighborhood it was.”

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