The City Council voted 8-1 late Tuesday to create a historic district in the Stockyards that follows the boundaries council members set a few months ago.
The vote came after nearly three hours of testimony from dozens of residents, many of whom called for a larger district.
Councilwoman Ann Zadeh was the sole vote opposing the smaller district.
Before the vote, Zadeh said her vote against the smaller district was not against having an historic district, but she wants a larger one.
“A larger district boundary could have included various sub-districts that could have created taking into consideration contributing and noncontributing structures,” Zadeh said. “The process here has not always been pleasant.”
Councilman Sal Espino, whose district includes the Stockyards, made the motion to adopt the smaller district.
He said the vote “is personal to all of us. This has been a very extensive process. We’re now in year two.”
Emotions ran high Tuesday night as historic preservationists tried to persuade the council to approve the larger of the two proposed historic districts.
In November, the council nominated 60 acres of the Stockyards as a historic district, which would set standards and guidelines for development and make it more difficult for buildings to be demolished.
“The Stockyards are not about to be bulldozed,” Mayor Betsy Price said before a public hearing. Later she added, “This council has worked incredibly hard” to consider all sides.
“The city doesn’t own the Stockyards. We walk a fine line with government regulation. My hope tonight is that we can move forward,” she said.
About six buildings in the old Swift packing plant area are being saved by the developer for adaptive reuse, she said.
But preservationists and other residents argue that 60 acres is not large enough to protect the integrity of Cowtown’s signature historic attraction, which is more than a century old.
“What I’ve seen so far, the developers are going to get everything,” said speaker Kip Wright, a Fort Worth resident.
Since November, and during the public debate on the council’s proposal, the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission voted down the council-initiated boundaries and opted to include more of what is traditionally considered Stockyards area — about 139 acres — in a historic district.
The Zoning Commission followed suit last month and voted to recommend the larger district.
The larger proposed district takes in the former Swift and Armour packing plants land east of Packers Boulevard, the vacant area south of the still standing Stockyards buildings south of Exchange Boulevard down to Northeast 23rd Street, and a similar vacant area north of Exchange Avenue behind the Cowtown Coliseum now used for parking.
The council was also considering designating a dozen structures in the Stockyards as historic, including the staircase and wall on Northeast 23rd Street that served as an entrance to the former Swift & Co. headquarters, as well as other retaining walls and columns through the Stockyards.
Six property owners of 14 buildings being considered for individual historic designation opposed the designation.
In a historic district, developers and property owners must submit plans for new buildings or expansions and changes to existing structures for review to a city board to ensure that what is built is compatible with the area and meets guidelines and standards. Often property owners resist the extra layer of regulations.
However, historic preservationists say such districts offer the best level of protection from demolition and help maintain an area’s integrity. If a demolition permit is sought, the application is reviewed by the city’s historic preservation officer and sometimes by the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission.
Spurred by development plan
All of this work is a result of a planned $175 million project to redevelop about 70 acres in the Stockyards by a partnership of Fort Worth’s Hickman family, which has owned the property for decades, and California-based Majestic Realty Group.
Last week, the council approved hiring Austin-based Code Studio as the consultant to create the standards and guidelines for the historic district and the form-based code, or zoning, for the Stockyards.
During an afternoon council work session, Lee Einsweiler, a principal with Code Studio, assured council members that the process of creating standards and guidelines will include preserving the existing character, ensuring new development is compatible with historic structures and that the work will respond to development pressure.
The consultant said the company will work with an economist on the project, who will determine where development gaps and opportunities are in the Stockyards and well as what can be done and what makes sense.
“It’s the first time in a long time you’ve had any development pressure in this area,” Einsweiler said. “It’s exciting to see, yet it’s daunting to see. We will work with whatever boundary you end up with.”
Before Tuesday’s vote, the mayor and council members received a resolution from the Fort Worth League of Neighborhood Associations and a letter signed by seven past chairs — dating back to 1982 — of the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission, urging approval of the larger boundaries set by the landmarks and zoning commissions.
“Good development is vital to the area’s future,” the letter said. “The expanded boundaries will protect the public’s interest in that future and in what we all agree is the most sensitive public-private partnership in recent memory. The City has one shot at getting this right. Please get this right.”
On Tuesday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation sent a letter to the developers, Price and council members, city staff and others in the preservation community, saying the organization “has serious concerns” about their plans to demolish some structures. The Stockyards is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the National Trust last year placed it on its most endangered historic places list.
“Proceeding with demolition of historic properties could jeopardize your ability to receive federal permits that may be essential to implementing the development,” wrote Paul W. Edmondson, the group’s lawyer. “Because of the location of Marine Creek flowing directly through the Stockyards district, we believe that one or more permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may be required in order to fully implement the development.”
The Army Corps, Edmondson said, will be required to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act before permits can be issued.
The developers plan a hotel along Marine Creek.
“In doing so, the Army Corps must take into account the effects of the development project on historic properties, and the environmental impacts of the project,” the letter said.
Permits are not granted if the historic property is “adversely affected,” the letter said.