Fort Worth’s East Rosedale Street makeover shows progress

A new clock tower will rise here on East Rosedale Street in Fort Worth. The improvements are part of an effort to create a more scenic, landmark entrance for Texas Wesleyan University.
A new clock tower will rise here on East Rosedale Street in Fort Worth. The improvements are part of an effort to create a more scenic, landmark entrance for Texas Wesleyan University. Star-Telegram

A nearly $39 million makeover of East Rosedale Street and Texas Wesleyan University is months from completion, but people who spend time in the area are already noticing a difference.

Ornamental lighting and 10-foot-wide sidewalks along East Rosedale Street have made the area feel safer and provided residents with a sense of the corridor’s potential to one day become a more vibrant place.

“It has been among the students’ top concerns to have a more walkable campus, and have more of a variety of restaurants and shops nearby,” said Abbey Borghee, a junior political science and pre-law major at Texas Wesleyan. “They want the freedom to share Texas Wesleyan University with friends and family by exploring the neighborhood.”

But for motorists, the project — also known as the Rosedale Renaissance — has been slow going.

East Rosedale remains laden with orange barrels. The four-lane road, a major east-west route in the historical Polytechnic Heights area, has been reduced to one lane in each direction since August.

It’s possible that all four lanes of East Rosedale Street will be reopened by April, after city crews complete parkway landscaping and build a decorative brick wall on the north side of the road, university officials said. Students will be able to sit on the wall to read, eat or socialize.

But other work along the corridor, including the installation of a traffic signal near the campus’s planned new entrance, could continue for several more months, a city official said.

Delays have been caused by factors such as complications moving utility lines — a common occurrence in road work — and bad weather, said Fort Worth Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray, whose district includes the area.

Long-ignored area

For Gray, the project represents a chance to invest in an area of Fort Worth that has long been ignored in the city’s economic development efforts.

“It’s going to be amazing,” she said. “We’re going to have some economic development geared toward the college crowd, and some geared to a family audience.”

The Rosedale Renaissance is a roughly $32 million project that includes returning the street to a four-lane expanded roadway with a median, and safe access for bicycles and pedestrians. It is being paid for by the city, Tarrant County, the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the Texas Department of Transportation.

At the same time, the 125-year-old Texas Wesleyan is embarking on a $6.7 million plan known as 2020 Vision. The plan includes converting a former parking lot north of Vaughn Boulevard into a gateway into the university, with an 83-foot-tall clock tower and water feature.

The private liberal-arts university, with 2,472 students, has also bought several properties on the south side of East Rosedale, with plans to convert them into a combination of academic and retail uses. The old Polytechnic Heights City Hall, for example, is being renovated, and a $3 million conference center is being built for the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

If all goes as planned, East Rosedale will become more like a tree-lined parkway cutting gently through the south end of campus, with plenty of room for cars but also safe access for cyclists and pedestrians.

Much of the university’s work will be done before the fall semester, university President Frederick Slabach said.

“In our 125-year history we’ve never really had a ‘front door,’ and this is opportunity to provide that,” he said, adding that the school’s investment is symbolic of its intent not only to stay in east Fort Worth but also to help the neighborhood reinvent itself.

No plans to leave

In the 1980s, as the area began to suffer from urban decay, Texas Wesleyan officials bought property in west Fort Worth and considered moving the campus across town. But ultimately the university was persuaded to stay in east Fort Worth, and now it is committed to playing a major role in the area’s rebirth.

“For us, the perception of this part of Fort Worth has kind of stuck,” Slabach said. “We believe we can change perceptions with bricks and mortar.”

The school’s commitment also includes renovation of dormitories, electrical and plumbing upgrades.

The work on East Rosedale between US. 287 and Miller Avenue includes building a roundabout at Mitchell Boulevard, near Sycamore Park.

While that work is being performed, another phase of construction will include improvement farther east on East Rosedale, between Miller Avenue and Loop 820. That second phase is expected to cost $16.1 million.

Meanwhile, in the 3200 block of East Rosedale, on the southern edge of Texas Wesleyan University, not much is available for passers-by other than a Subway restaurant and campus bookstore.

Priyanka Patel said she and her husband bought and reopened the Subway in August after a previous owner had difficulties. About 80 percent of their business comes from Texas Wesleyan, she said, and about 10 percent from nearby Polytechnic High School.

She is eagerly awaiting completion of East Rosedale and a dramatic increase in walk-up traffic that likely will follow.

“We are just waiting for them to finish the work on the street,” Patel said. “They told us they would be done in November, and then February, but now it is March.”

But while her patience is being tested, Patel said she has noticed that the area already looks and feels much safer, now that the Rosedale Renaissance is underway.

“At night,” she said, “it looks really nice in this area.”

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796

Twitter: @gdickson