Editorials

Fort Worth Cultural District requires least amount of new arena signs possible

Dickies Arena starting to take shape

The countdown is on at Fort Worth's Dickies Arena with less than a year before Texas singer George Strait headlines a concert Nov. 22, 2019.
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The countdown is on at Fort Worth's Dickies Arena with less than a year before Texas singer George Strait headlines a concert Nov. 22, 2019.

There’s a rare and enviable cluster of cultivation to be found in Fort Worth’s Cultural District. Other cities should be so lucky, so visionary.

Right around the corner from the vibrant and edgy 7th Street strand of shops, eateries and nightspots sits a museum district rivaling Washington, D.C.’s National Mall for diverse, walkable attractions. As FortWorth.com puts it, there are “six world class museums in a beautiful, park-like setting. The Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Kimbell Art Museum, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Cattle Raisers Museum.”

Billing the Cultural District as “Fort Worth’s premier place to live, work, play, and learn,” the Cultural District Alliance delights in the area’s “charming historic homes, a developing Urban Village, high-rise residences, and family-friendly neighborhoods.”

But, like anything of such sophistication, the Cultural District is fragile and worthy of painstaking protection.

That’s why it’s so good to see the various stakeholders working so hard to get it right on the signage for the new Dickies Arena opening this November.

The thing is, getting it right won’t be easy. The balance between informing drivers and crowding the landscape will be as delicate as a museum artifact.

A recent proposal is for five electronic billboards (three new, two upgraded existing ones), up to 30 feet high and over 17 feet wide, on the edges of Dickies Arena and Will Rogers Memorial Center property. A larger sign up to 70 feet high would be placed near Montgomery and West Freeway to capture Interstate 30 motorists.

Neighbors, cultural district aficionados and visual preservationists at Scenic Fort Worth are understandably concerned the signs might degrade “what is essentially the entrance to our museum district” and “would take away from the elegance” of the area, as one put it.

At the same time, this is a public-private partnership, and the city’s share of the $450 million arena is capped at $225 — meaning the private financiers, led by Event Facilities Fort Worth headed by financier Ed Bass, have more than a little skin in the game. They deserve, and the success of the sparkling new arena will require, reasonable accommodations to get word out about, and attendees to, events there.

The good news is that Scenic Fort Worth’s Margaret DeMoss says the organization supports the arena and all it will do for the community — and Event Facilities Fort Worth President and CEO Mike Groomer likewise says the arena folks want to respect the district’s ambiance and not brand the area as the arena’s.

That’s a sound basis for consensus. But again, it’s not going to be easy.

Architects have gone back to the drawing board to revise, by late April, the design of the signs to better complement the surrounding museum aesthetics. But neighborhood groups — such as the Crestwood Association, which is to hear a presentation on the signs at its meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at Central Christ Church, 3205 Hamilton Ave. — will need further convincing. They’re concerned about the size, number and brightness of the proposed signs.

“We need to recognize that protecting neighborhoods and quiet areas is essential to the health of a city,” one member told us.

Everyone’s goal, particularly in this setting, should be the smallest, least number of signs possible.

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