Construction work should start in September on the interiors of three storefronts on Rosedale Street owned by Texas Wesleyan University with the goal of attracting restaurants or shops across from campus — something that has been envisioned for a decade.
About 10 years ago, the facades of the buildings were restored as part of a three-block project aimed at sparking revitalization in the Polytechnic Heights neighborhood. But that hasn’t completely happened.
In the latest effort, Fort Worth council members approved a $572,299 grant in the form of a forgivable loan to TWU to get the long-vacant space to “white box” status, a condition that will make it affordable for tenants to come in and finish out the space themselves. The current condition makes it cost-prohibitive, TWU officials said.
“We believe if we can get it to white box, there’s significant interest by retailers,” said TWU President Frederick Slabach. “We’re just really starting a major transformation of our neighborhood.”
The spaces, totaling about 9,579 square feet, are at 3012, 3014 and 3016 E. Rosedale St. The university is also using some of the money to complete two parking lots nearby.
Under terms of the incentive, TWU is expected to invest $383,160 of its own money and provide free rent for 12 months to tenants, who must provide full-time jobs for at least 10 central city residents. If the terms are met, the loan, which carries zero percent interest for five years, will be forgiven. The money would need to be repaid if TWU sells the properties.
In the past few years, TWU has renovated historic buildings in the 3100 block of East Rosedale into a Community Counseling Center and will soon complete a business incubator. At 3200 E. Rosedale, it built a conference center now leased by the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.
It also completed a new entryway to the school with a clock tower and decorative fencing on the north side of Rosedale. The university plans to start construction in January on a $20 million university center in the middle of the campus and this fall is bringing football back.
The funds approved by the City Council will come from revenue generated from a lease with the Hilton Hotel for the parking under General Worth Square. The city provided $6 million in Urban Development Action Grant funds in 1979 to build the garage, which today generates about $100,800 annually. That money must be used for community development and revitalization programs. The lease runs through 2070.
Since 2012, when the fund had $1.58 million in it, $1.25 million has been spent. The last grant of $500,000 came in 2016 for rebuilding the McDonald Southeast YMCA adjacent to Renaissance Square off Miller and Berry streets. Coupled with anticipated revenues, the fund will grow to $637,585 to provide enough money for the TWU project, according to a city report.
It’s not the first time the city has sunk money into the redevelopment projects near TWU.
In December 2007, the council approved a $961,212 economic development incentive for the facade renovations in the 3000, 3100 and 3200 blocks of East Rosedale, buildings that date to the 1920s. At that time, the university partnered with developers TSC Poly Retail, Llc. TSC Poly eventually sold the property to TWU in 2014.
Then, in 2008, the council approved a five-year tax abatement for the 3000 and 3100 blocks of East Rosedale. TSC Poly received the tax abatement from 2010 to 2013, totaling $34,322. An additional $3,193 in permit fees was waived because the property is in a neighborhood empowerment zone.
All told, the city has now spent more than $1.5 million in grants and incentives in the East Rosedale project. The university has spent $3.3 million on the project, according to a city report.
At the project’s start, the university located its bookstore at the west end of the 3000 block and the developers were able to bring in a Subway sandwich shop.
But the Great Recession hit and that ended “any kind of ability to attract anyone into those retail spaces,” Slabach said.
That was until the past couple of years when potential tenants started emerging, mostly food-related mom-and-pop and local chains, he said.
“These are very small operations,” he said, but ones that would benefit the campus as well as the surrounding neighborhood.
In addition to faculty and staff, the campus serves about 2,400 students, he said.