Fort Worth

Preservation still a concern in Fort Worth Stockyards development

City staff and consultants listened to comments from the public Wednesday evening about redevelopment in the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards.
City staff and consultants listened to comments from the public Wednesday evening about redevelopment in the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards. Star-Telegram archives

Some people attending a public meeting Wednesday night regarding the establishment of a design overlay district for the Stockyards and adjacent properties expressed interest in having more control and oversight about what’s built and developed there.

The meeting was one in a series scheduled by consultants to get input from the public, property and business owners and other interested parties about rules for design of future buildings in the Stockyards. The effort comes in the wake of a $175 million development planned for the historic north Fort Worth area.

Consultants said they have collected more than 200 comments at four earlier meetings. Already, stakeholders have said they’d like to see building heights no greater than five stories and some uniformity in street lighting and signage, among other things.

But Wednesday night, tension was apparent when some asked about historic preservation and for more specifics about how the overlay district will affect the development project of California-based Majestic Realty and Fort Worth’s Hickman family.

“We want the Stockyards to maintain the character if has now,” consultant Randy Gideon said. “We’re going to do the best we can with this ordinance. This is not an historic preservation ordinance or an economic development ordinance. We’re going to do a draft and everyone can look at it.”

A design overlay district does not prevent the demolition of property nor does it address land uses, but it does offer some protection for architectural styles and building design and materials. To have more control, the property owners would have to agree to a historic overlay district or form-based codes, which provide stronger guidelines.

Steve Murrin, a Stockyards businessman and landowner, said he and others in the Stockyards understood that the City Council would protect the integrity and authenticity of the Stockyards by establishing rules through the design overlay district.

“This fragile commodity that you call ‘authenticity’ is in danger,” Murrin said. “We haven’t seen any plans at all. We want what we’ve been promised.”

Gideon said a draft report of guidelines should be ready for the 15-member Historic Stockyards Design District Task Force for its meeting on Wednesday. The consultants were hired in March by the Fort Worth Stockyards Business Association at the urging of the City Council as a way for business and property owners to have input regarding future development in the Stockyards.

In June 2014, the council approved property and sales tax incentives for the Stockyards Heritage project valued at the time at $26 million. Because the incentives will be paid out over 25 years, and if the developers meet investment goals set by the city staff, estimates are that the value of the incentives could swell to about $67 million.

The Hickman-Majestic group plans to develop property on the north and south sides of East Exchange Avenue between Northeast 23rd and Northeast 28th streets, and the former Swift-Armour packing plant area east of Packers Avenue.

The council had hoped the task force’s work would be completed by June 30, but Dana Burghdoff, the city’s deputy planning director, said that deadline likely will not be met. Several more meetings and additional public hearings will be required, she said.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST