The Fort Worth City Council recently determined that the Stockyards, which is soon to undergo redevelopment by the Majestic/Hickman group, should properly be outlined in a historic district. This was a very good decision.
The city’s Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission, after studying resources in the immediate area, determined that the boundary should be broadened to consider other historic properties and the broader historic context.
Their unanimous vote was passed along to the city’s Zoning Commission, which recommended the same broader district, a very good decision as well.
The City Council is scheduled to vote at its Tuesday meeting on which of the boundaries should be adopted.
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The council in previously adopting a smaller boundary may have been unaware of the historic resources that were just outside of that boundary.
There are properties within the broader boundary that should be carefully considered, including the area of the former Swift and Armour plants and the cattle pens site.
As with any historic district, the overall context of the site is integral to preservation.
Considering that our Stockyards are only ones left with enough built history to preserve and work with, the handling of this unique asset is of the greatest importance.
Some disinformation has been spread about preservation, which includes comments that have to do with:
▪ not being able to renovate a historic property to make it fully functional again or being so restricted in the work as to make the effort futile,
▪ historic preservation always costing so much more than new construction as to render the development a financial bust from the start, or
▪ historic preservation and economic development somehow being mutually exclusive.
These curious comments/thoughts are not based on fact.
Historic preservation has become an integral part of our culture. How else to explain the emphasis on preservation indicated by tax incentives offered by federal, state and local governments?
All of these programs have been used in the near southside, where multimillion-dollar reinvestments in historic properties, such as the Homes of Parker Commons, Supreme Golf and the Miller Lofts, among many others, have taken place.
Developers have used preservation incentives and produced performing buildings that are profitable both for the developers and the businesses therein.
Along Magnolia Avenue, the older buildings that are a part of a local and National Register Historic District have attracted local businesses whose business plans allow for the flexibility of unique places.
Magnolia is thriving. The more of it saved and used, the better.
The Stockyards will profit from this kind of reinvestment. A re-creation or a developer’s idea of a Disney-like western theme park could never have the cachet of the real thing.
We are in perhaps the most advantageous time ever for economic incentives for historic preservation.
The 20 percent federal tax credit, our new Texas state franchise tax credit of 25 percent, the local tax freeze and our local infusion of $67 million makes this a compelling development.
It also makes it of paramount importance that the system be allowed to work.
Let the city’s experts do their job to carefully consider our historic resources and lend advice and context to any developer working with historic buildings.
Even the remains of the old Swift plant hold a fascination and a bit of mystery. They could be incorporated into a larger development with the advice of a good architect.
It must be our collective goal to be as considerate as possible of our Stockyards’ history in the redevelopment of a national treasure.
We have but one crack at getting it right.
Let us hope our City Council will reflect on the importance of this moment and this vote, and allow for the broader boundary and the resources that can be brought to bear for a carefully rendered historic district of international importance.
Tom Reynolds is a rancher and a south side developer and former chairman of the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission.