Near Southside brewery has seen neighborhood boom since opening in 2015
With warm sun and cold beer, Annie and Michael Byers enjoyed the patio Friday at HopFusion Ale Works in Fort Worth’s evolving Near Southside.
The beer is obviously a big draw, but the brewery is also an easy drive to their home in Mistletoe Heights. Proximity to craft beer has factored into the couple’s relocation to the Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, later this summer for Micheal’s residency program.
“I’d be lying if I said we didn’t consider all the breweries in an area as we looked for a home,” said Michael Byers, who is finishing school at UNT Health Science Center. A five- to 10-minute drive to a brewery is their limit. “Any more than that would impact our interest.”
There’s a chance craft breweries like HopFusion, nearby Rahr & Sons and Martin House in United Riverside could be increasing the Byers’ property value.
A study released earlier this year from Neil Reid at the University of Toledo and Isabelle Nilsson at the University of North Carolina found a correlation between craft breweries and property values in Charlotte, North Carolina. There, homes within a half mile of a brewery saw a 10% increase from 2002 to 2017, and condominiums saw about 3% growth in value. They found no impact on commercial properties.
It’s more than just a love for beer, said Reid, a professor of geography and planning. People who choose to live by breweries are the same people who look for walkability — shops, restaurants and transit connections within walking distance of their home.
That may be difficult in car-dependent Fort Worth, but cities across the country have trended toward neighborhood investment that combines residential and commercial. Breweries, or their tap houses, are at least one part of that. Similar studies have shown increases in property value when a Starbucks or Whole Foods opens nearby, Reid said.
“It’s clear that for at least some people, a craft brewery is an amenity,” he said. “The ability to walk a few blocks and have a pint is just as appealing as walking to an art gallery or show.”
Charlotte obviously isn’t Fort Worth, but it has a similar population and growth rate, making it a good proxy, said Sean Crotty, a TCU geography professor who teaches a class focused on the geography of beer. But it’s hard to know if the same is true in Fort Worth.
Historical property value data isn’t easily available, but anecdotal evidence shows areas with breweries are also those seeing new investment, he said. In the Near Southside, Rahr & Sons Brewing Company has been a staple of Fort Worth beer since 2004, Collective Brewing Project joined in 2013 and Funky Picnic Brewery & Café is slated to open in June.
The area has seen rapid redevelopment, particularly along South Main. United Riverside, the neighborhood that’s home to Martin House, is also seeing new investment, and Panther Island Brewing is located in a former industrial zone that may one day be an urban island. Wild Acre Brewery’s location off Interstate 30 and U.S. 287 is more industrial.
Crotty said it’s unlikely Rahr drove property values up south of downtown, but the brewery did bring people into a previously economically depressed area. A venue like Rahr & Sons, which hosts weekly tastings and other events, can be an investor’s introduction to a neighborhood.
“It changes the expectation about the nature of a neighborhood,” he said. “When you spend time in an area, you appreciate what’s good about it. Investors try to build on that.”
An unscientific look at Tarrant Appraisal District data for 15 properties around HopFusion at 200 E. Broadway Ave. showed an increase in property values of a little more than 30% from 2014 to 2018. Home prices in Historic Southside, the residential neighborhood closest to HopFusion, have gone up nearly 26% in the past year, according real estate website Zillow. Around Martin House’s Brewing Company, 15 nearby properties saw a more than 55% increase in the same time frame.
The neighborhoods are not identical. HopFusion is largely surrounded by commercial property, while Martin House has a high number of residential properties nearby, including the Fourth & Sylvania housing project.
HopFusion co-owner Macy Moore said it’s clear the Near Southside has started booming since they opened about four years ago. In that time he estimated 12 new businesses have joined them in the South Main corridor.
“When we opened, there wasn’t much going on over here,” he said. “I’m not saying we made that happen, but I think we’re a part of it.”
Of course, breweries are not the only factor driving property value, Reid said. They’re part of a bigger picture that includes new investment in old neighborhoods, legal changes that favor beer production and a renewed focus on city centers.
Breweries are often one of the first companies to locate to a post-industrial area where factory and commercial space has become vacant, he said. Those areas typically have the right building for a brewery — large enough to accommodate production, cheap enough for a small business to afford and with unique architecture and space for an attractive tap room. The brew company’s investment in the property increases its value and may spur similar investment nearby.
These areas are not traditional neighborhoods, but Reid’s research has shown cities often begin to rezone space for both commercial and residential.
“The question is to what extent are craft breweries leading the investment, and to what extent are they just a part of it,” he said.
City planners and policy makers may be tempted to treat microbreweries the same way they treat bars, but Crotty said that can be misguided.
The study does make it clear craft breweries aren’t hurting property values the way one might expect from a drinking establishment. That could be because the culture of consumption at tap rooms is often different from that of bars, Crotty said. They often lack hard liquor and close earlier — usually around 10 p.m — and visitors tend to drink less.
“The typical issues surrounding a bar — noise and intoxication — those things are generally not as serious a concern as people might think,” he said.
Moore said craft breweries often tend to be strong community partners. He and co-founder Matt Hill chose the location because they live nearby and wanted to invest in the area, he said. HopFusion regularly hosts social events and charity fundraisers that bring people together.
“Small craft breweries like us tend to be heavily involved in the community around us,” Moore said.
The Byerses, who have two small kids, said breweries are often family friendly, particularly those with large outdoor spaces or games.
“The environment is very important to me,” Annie Byers said.