Months — years — of emotional arguments about the Fort Worth Stockyards will reach another high point Tuesday when the City Council votes on a local historic district to protect the area’s dearly held heritage.
Tension focuses not on the district itself — its creation is a foregone conclusion — but on where its boundaries will be.
The council proposed a 60-acre district. Historic preservationists have fought for, and gained Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission and Zoning Commission support for, 139 acres.
Mayor Betsy Price told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board that she still supports the 60-acre plan, as have some of the eight council members.
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Fort Worth must strike a balance between preserving remnants of its authentic Western past and allowing developers to create commercially viable projects that will sustain the Stockyards long into the future.
In truth, the consequences probably won’t be dire, no matter which plan the council selects. Most of the difference is vacant land where historic structures used to be. Both plans would preserve most of the core structures and pens left in the Stockyards.
Still, the 60-acre plan leaves out some fixtures Price said the council plans to protect separately, such as the “Swift steps” ornamental staircase on Northeast 23rd Street and a tunnel used to move livestock between pens and to packinghouses.
Crucially, it also leaves out the “ruins” of a few remaining buildings of the Swift & Co. packing plant, a sprawling industrial operation from 1902 to 1955.
Some preservationists want those ruins saved, but their structural integrity is questionable.
Just as crucially, Fort Worth Heritage Development, a partnership of Fort Worth’s Hickman family and California-based Majestic Realty, already holds valid city permits to demolish them.
Some preservationists say it’s important to recognize the scale of the Stockyards in their heyday by opting for the larger historic district.
Price and some council members say they’ll do that with design standards already in place and with “form-based” development standards to be drawn up by a council-hired consultant with community input.
Tuesday’s meeting could be distinguished more by tone than by result. Each side should develop clear and constructive arguments and present them respectfully.
The Stockyards will survive.