As a longtime Fort Worth resident spending most of my career on projects aimed at historic preservation and central city redevelopment, I am incredibly disheartened by the tactics and misinformation being used by historic preservationists to target the City Council and Mayor Betsy Price.
While I appreciate the emotion around protecting and preserving the historic Stockyards, it is crucial that we get our facts straight. People should step up to appreciate the mayor and council for their efforts.
Until the council took action in 2014, the Stockyards was zoned for industrial uses.
To provide immediate protection, the council rezoned the Stockyards as PD-MU2 (planned development, mixed-use) and appointed a 16-member design guidelines task force.
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Once the task force work was complete, it was the council that called for creating the Stockyards Historic District and approved a form-based building code process, which will begin in the next month.
Nothing will be built or redeveloped in the Stockyards without going through a very extensive review process that includes the Urban Design Commission, the Zoning Commission, the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission and finally the City Council.
This will be the most comprehensive development process in the city, and it is already being put in place to protect, preserve and allow for responsible development in the Stockyards.
One of the most important protections for the Stockyards Historic District and the surrounding areas will be the form-based code process that has been so successful in redevelopment of the near south, Camp Bowie and University-Berry areas.
This will be a transparent, public process. The form-based code consultant will write the historic district guidelines for the Stockyards, and the entire area will be looked at in a holistic manner, which includes historic context even for those areas outside of the final historic district boundary.
As for the tax incentive agreement with the Fort Worth Heritage Development partners, the truth is being distorted.
It is not a gift of $67 million in tax dollars, as is being blasted on social media.
It is a very thoughtful economic incentive agreement with a variety of safeguards and requirements, with a total local tax benefit of $245.5 million.
The private-to-public ratio of investment dollars is 7 to 1, and the value of incentives to the Fort Worth Heritage Development project is capped at $26 million if the development reaches all three phases.
Once again, historic preservationists are late to the party. If this expanded historic district is so important, where have they been during the last 30 years?
If the Swift and Armour buildings are so important, why have they been allowed to effectively be demolished through neglect?
And what about all the other historic industrial buildings in town that continue to have little or no protection?
The historic preservationists have a reputation for ignoring private property rights and refusing to bring sensibility to development or redevelopment in our city.
I speak from personal experience.
The City Council and the mayor should be applauded instead of vilified for the courage to find a way to redevelop the Stockyards, a project long overdue in Fort Worth.
We can’t go back to the past, but with the processes that are being put into place we can create a tribute to the past while building a foundation for the future.
If the historic preservationists continue on this path, they will lose their seat at the table, as they did with the redevelopment of Montgomery Plaza.
Together we can create the proper balance between historic adaptive reuse and redevelopment.
Fran McCarthy is chairman of Fort Worth’s Central City Committee.