Bud Kennedy

For Stockyards, a look at the dream but no details

Some of the old, tumbledown cattle pens would be restored, but others would be cleared as part of a 14-block Stockyards development proposal.
Some of the old, tumbledown cattle pens would be restored, but others would be cleared as part of a 14-block Stockyards development proposal. Special to the Star-Telegram

Something needed to change in the Stockyards.

The question is what, and how much, and how to keep new stuff from looking like 14 blocks of suburban fake town square.

The Hickman family’s planned $175 million redo of the old livestock buildings east of Marine Creek will be either the Stockyards’ rescue or ruin, depending on who’s talking and how much they trust City Hall.

Everybody wants new shops, restaurants, apartments and attractions in restored old Stockyards buildings, but nobody wants California-based partner Majestic Realty Group to turn them into anything that looks like — well, California.

City Hall has to ride herd on this deal and keep a tight rein on the size, scope and appearance of whatever goes into the mule barns or along the creek to the south, or in place of the Swift & Co. packinghouse ruins.

Look, the Stockyards needed some help. The Stock Show moved out in 1942, and the last major cattle auction was in 1992. The old Swift packinghouse has been empty almost half a century, and younger generations have come to regard it as more macabre than museum-piece.

But the Hickmans and Majestic have been slow to give specifics, which in turn gave preservationists more time for alarmist speeches about the dire fate that might befall the mostly tumbledown barns and pens.

Turns out most will stay. Some won’t.

(The Stockyards Hotel, bars and restaurants west of Marine Creek won’t change. Nor will their 1957-vintage fake-historic wood storefronts.)

Former Mayor Pro Tem Jim Lane, 71, the brains behind the Fort Worth Herd daily cattle drive, negotiated big-money deals at Alliance Airport and Texas Motor Speedway.

He saw a very preliminary preview of Majestic’s idea Tuesday in Cowtown Coliseum and left shaking his head.

“This is still a concept,” he said. “I want to know what they’ll do and how they’re going to spend the money. It’s like putting shops around the Alamo: You have to be careful.”

Mayor Betsy Price first remembers coming to a Stockyards cattle auction at age 4. I won’t say how long ago that was, but it wasn’t long after my mother moved here and got her first job stitching saddles at M.L. Leddy’s.

Price praised the preview as a “major step.” She said it’ll be up to city leaders to set design preservation standards for the Hickman/Majestic properties, including a height limit to protect the long-range appearance of the landmark Exchange Building and coliseum.

“If we do it the right way, it’ll all fit in,” she said. “We can do that.”

It’s up to us to ride herd on City Hall.

Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy

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