Fort Worth

Developer’s plan for high-end duplexes worries residents in this neighborhood near TCU

University West Duplexes

Fort Worth developer HGC has plans for high-end duplexes in University West that neighbors worry will attract TCU students prone to partying, not quiet families.
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Fort Worth developer HGC has plans for high-end duplexes in University West that neighbors worry will attract TCU students prone to partying, not quiet families.

Along Shirley Avenue in University West, a quiet neighborhood adjacent to Texas Christian University’s booming campus, post-war homes designed for single families sit tucked behind old trees.

Renters live in some of the homes, but most are owner-occupied.

Neighbors in the 2500 block are worried that could change with plans from high-end developer HGC Development to build four large duplexes on a dirt lot where a 1920s-era farmhouse-style home once stood.

The duplexes could house as many as 32 people and with the neighborhood’s proximity to TCU, residents fear that college students, not families, will move in next door, increasing noise and traffic and decreasing property values, Dave Aftandilian said.

“We don’t want to see the neighborhood erode,” he said.

Aftandilian, who owns a home with Sarah Rose immediately next to the planned duplexes, worries that TCU students will bring “noise, drunkenness, broken beer bottles in the street.”

The neighborhood has appealed to the developer to switch plans to make them single family homes, writing a letter with more than 20 signatures protesting the duplexes, but Aftandilian said they’re not optimistic that things will change.

A representative of HGC told University West residents the townhouse-style duplexes would be sold to high-end customers, not rented to students.

In a statement emailed to the Star-Telegram, HGC said the units would be three to four bedrooms and cost $650,000 per side. Buyers would likely be “empty-nesters, TCU alumni, and sophisticated buyers looking for a lock-and-leave residence with proximity to TCU, Colonial Country Club, the Fort Worth Zoo and the exquisite restaurants and shops of University Village.”

University West successfully changed zoning in the area from one that permits duplexes to zoning for single-family homes, but HGC was able to file permits for the duplexes earlier this month — before the zoning change takes effect Jan. 1.

Brad Schneider, a University West resident who helped spur the zoning change, said the neighborhood feels HGC rushed the permits through against the will of the community.

“You can get permits in a matter of weeks. It took us months to get the zoning change,” Schneider said. “There’s nothing to protect the neighborhood while we wait for zoning to change.”

City Councilwoman Ann Zadeh said the area should be single-family homes, according to the city’s comprehensive plan. A few years ago a zoning overlay was applied to neighborhoods around TCU to prevent stealth dorms, small apartment complexes marketed to students, from cropping up between homes, but parts of University West didn’t make the switch until recently.

“It’s a balance between property rights and the concerns of the neighbors,” Zadeh said.

Elizabeth Perez-Azerod, who grew up in a home she intends to renovate across the street from the planned duplexes, quickly pointed out that no one in the neighborhood is against TCU students. Many have a direct connection to the school, either as faculty or alumni, and some living on the block are students.

The town homes, however, will likely decrease property value, she said.

“If I know the neighborhood is consistent, then I’ll go for it,” she said of renovating her house. “But if I think the property values are going to slump, I can’t justify it.”

The duplexes will feature garages and space for two cars in driveways accessible from the rear alley, but neighbors said that won’t be enough to support 32 additional cars if students occupy each room. During the semester, students and faculty hoping to avoid on-campus parking park bumper to bumper along Shirley as early as 6:30 a.m., they said.

“One of the reasons we picked this neighborhood is so the kids could play in the front yard,” said Tom Stevens, who has three young children. “But with all that extra traffic I don’t think it’d be safe.”

Even if the duplexes are sold to empty-nesters, Aftandilian said they’re too large for the neighborhood. With up to four bedrooms and 3,000 square feet, the duplexes are too dense for a neighborhood where most homes are under 2,000 square feet, he said.

“They’re going to loom over the neighborhood,” Aftandilian said.

Construction has yet to begin, so for now neighbors are hoping that HGC will change its plans or ensure that the duplexes are sold to families, he said.

“We just want responsible, courteous development,” said Dan McKenzie, the University West Neighborhood Association chairman.

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.
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