Fort Worth

Zoning changes sought for Fort Worth’s historic Stop Six neighborhood

Stop Six historic designation being removed

Fort Worth Council member Gyna Bivens wants to see the historic designation removed from the once rural African-American community that was the sixth stop on the Fort Worth to Dallas Interurban line. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)
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Fort Worth Council member Gyna Bivens wants to see the historic designation removed from the once rural African-American community that was the sixth stop on the Fort Worth to Dallas Interurban line. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

Nearly a decade after a measure was approved to entice development in Fort Worth’s Stop Six neighborhood, the City Council is now working to undo that measure for the same reason.

Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, whose District 5 includes Stop Six, named because it was the location of the sixth stop on the Interurban line in the early 1900’s, is spearheading the push to remove a historic district overlay that was initiated by the City Council in November 2006 and approved the following May.

Stop Six Sunrise Edition is bounded by Sheraton Drive on the west, Ramey Avenue on the north, Stalcup Road on the east, and East Berry Street on the south.

The historic district has been a detriment, said Bivens, who was elected to the council in 2013, six years after the overlay went into effect. In 2014, just a year after her election, Bivens said, she began asking the city staff for development figures from the largely African-American neighborhood.

What she found was no surprise, Bivens said.

New-home construction permits completed fell from 77 in the six years before the designation, to seven in the nine years following the designation. And the numbers for commercial projects didn’t improve much either.

I wasn’t seeing any pre-development conferences taking place. That was a red flag.

District 5 Councilwoman Gyna Bivens

“I wasn’t seeing any pre-development conferences taking place,” Bivens said of Stop Six. “That was a red flag.”

When she dug into it, Bivens said, the city’s former historic preservation officer said the neighborhood was not a good candidate for the historic overlay designation and that there was opposition to it from residents as well. According to a city report, 832 property owners, representing nearly 85 percent of the Stop Six parcels, signed petitions opposing the overlay.

Historic districts are created to preserve the character and identity of an area. Standards and guidelines are put in place to keep that heritage and are followed when a house needs remodeling or a new home is built. Approval is needed even when a property owner wants to demolish a structure.

When anyone takes a look at the overlay, you wonder what’s being preserved. It’s just not right when it wasn’t support to be in the first place.

Councilwoman Bivens

“When anyone takes a look at the overlay, you wonder what’s being preserved,” Bivens said. “It’s just not right when it wasn’t support to be in the first place. It should have enough support structures to justify the designation. From day one, this one never did.”

Regina Blair, president of the Stop Six Sunrise Edition Neighborhood Association, who pushed for the creation of the historic district, reportedly opposes removing the overlay designation, but could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.

Council-initiated historic districts are rare, yet earlier this year, the City Council initiated and approved an historic district overly for 60 acres in the Historic Stockyards in north Fort Worth. Another 13 neighborhoods have historic district overlays.

But Bivens said too many houses had been altered over the years from the historic periods of 1920 to 1940 and 1950-1970. Many homes are boarded up because owners don’t want to be held to the guidelines, she said, and 185 acres of the nearly 400-acre Stop Six neighborhood is vacant.

“I had no idea we had so much vacant land in the overlay,” Bivens said.

At its last June meeting, the City Council approved a resolution that begins the process of removing the overlay, which says there are not enough structures in Stop Six to support it. The resolution now will be considered by the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission on Monday, and the Zoning Commission next month for a recommendation. Public hearings will be held at those meetings as well as a final vote by the council this fall.

Instead, individual property owners who want the designation can apply for it, Bivens said.

In the past few years, developers have looked and walked away from Stop Six because of the overlay, Bivens said.

Lawrence Lawson, who owns Lawson Construction, a residential construction business in the Los Angeles area, is one those developers.

He has family and friends living in Fort Worth and has toured Stop Six on visits here to see them, he said. Lawson said he’s done projects in similar neighborhoods in Detroit, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, Mich.

Lawson said he has shied away from doing any projects here because of the guidelines. But now, in anticipation of the council action, Lawson said he’s reconsidering. The neighborhood, he said. “is ripe for renovation.”

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