Fort Worth

Fort Worth council moves forward on creating Stockyards historic district

A stage coach is part of a parade on East Exchange Avenue during the Day of the American Cowboy celebration at the Stockyards in July.
A stage coach is part of a parade on East Exchange Avenue during the Day of the American Cowboy celebration at the Stockyards in July. Star-Telegram archives

The City Council Tuesday night put into action the nomination process for a historic district encompassing a portion of the Fort Worth Stockyards, one that preservationists say is not large enough and that property owners say is too much.

The proposed boundary includes Exchange Avenue east and west of Main Street, north to Stockyards Boulevard and just behind the historic buildings on the south. It does not include the former Swift & Co. property, commonly called the ruins, or the area east of Niles City Boulevard.

About a dozen historic preservationists, while applauding the council for taking the initiative to establish an historic district, asked council members to consider enlarging the proposed boundary to mirror the boundary used to include the Stockyards on the National Historic Register.

Kate Schwartz, preservation resource center manager for Historic Fort Worth Inc., said a recently completed historic preservation survey includes 93 buildings and sites in that larger district, and 68 of those still contribute to the historic significance of the Stockyards.

“We found there have been a number of losses, especially in the northern part of the district,” Schwartz said.

Fort Worth resident Libby Willis said, “You have a good start. It needs to be bigger. We deserve better. The Stockyards deserve better. Draw us a bigger boundary.”

Several Stockyards property owners asked that their property not be included in the proposed historic district.

“I believe in my property rights,” said Mike Costanza, who owns several buildings. “I’ve never asked the city to spend a dollar, or anyone else to put money” in his property.

“I chose to invest my money and did what I thought was right.”

The council action came days after the city issued 23 demolition permits to Majestic Realty to tear down buildings in the Stockyards in the path of its planned $175 million redevelopment project. Of those, 17 are outside the proposed local historic district and seven are in the district. One of the permits was denied for further review.

Half of the permits are to tear down structures in the former Swift & Co. property. It does not include the brick wall or grand staircase to the Swift property along N.E. 23rd Street.

“Heritage Development remains unequivocally dedicated to preserve, protect and enhance our most valuable and viable structures,” said Kerby Smith, senior vice president of Majestic Realty. He said the permits for property in the proposed district are for smaller structures that have deteriorated beyond repair.

Heritage is a partnership of Majestic and the Hickman family that in July revealed its master plans for the Stockyards. Last month, the developers said they will spend $40 million to preserve the historic horse and mule barns on Exchange Avenue.

But the owners of the building that houses the popular Billy Bob’s Texas club, which includes the Hickmans, asked that their building be removed from the proposed district, as did Keith Kidwell, who owns several properties on West Exchange Avenue.

“I don’t need anyone telling me how to preserve” the property, Kidwell said.

In approving the historic district boundary nomination, council members reiterated that doing so was just a start and there will be several opportunities for the public and property owners to express their concerns.

Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, said: “What we’re voting on tonight is not a decision. ... it’s a decision to go forward with public comment and scrutiny. We have to go through the process. This is the start of a process and we need to have everybody have their say. We may well redraw the map. We do need to continue to protect what is important about the Stockyards.”

City staff will schedule a public meeting in December on the proposed historic district, followed by public hearings by the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission in January and Zoning Commission in February.

The issue returns to the City Council in March for a final vote.

The time frame for Majestic’s demolition plans could not be learned Tuesday night. Demolition permits expire in 60 days if there is no activity.