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Council Report: City amends downtown building design rules, delays district expansion

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Changes are coming to the rules that govern building design in downtown Fort Worth.

The Fort Worth City Council approved amendments to the Downtown Urban Design District’s standards and guidelines on June 14. The vote was 8-0, as Councilmember Sal Espino was traveling in China with Fort Worth Sister Cities.

Any new construction within the Downtown Urban Design District’s boundaries will be required to follow rules that govern design elements such as building height, sidewalk width and signage. One new rule requires buildings in certain areas of downtown to have a three-story height minimum unless the developer applies for an exemption.

Existing buildings will not be affected by the revised rules.

The boundary of the district remains in question, however, as the proposed expansion was met with some opposition during the council meeting.

The city council planned to vote on expanding the boundary to include more of the northeast edge of downtown – that is, the area east of the Intermodal Transportation Center up to Interstate 35, then north up to the Greenway, Rock Island and Samuels Avenue neighborhoods. The area would have joined the existing district, which roughly stretches west toward Forest Park Boulevard and south toward Interstate 30.

However, Tony Williams, a representative of Penske Truck Leasing at 501 North Freeway, told the city council that he’d like his business to be excluded from the district.

The district guidelines state that if a building goes through a renovation equal to at least 20 percent of the square footage of the existing facility, the renovation must be approved by the city’s Downtown Design Review Board.

Williams said that the “20 percent” requirement, along with the district’s requirements to add trees and sidewalks, would create safety issues and hinder growth of his company.

The city council then decided to delay the matter for another week to allow Penske and the city to discuss how the company would be affected by the design rules.

The city has spent about two years working with the downtown advocacy group Downtown Fort Worth Inc. (DFWI), and area neighborhood associations to revise the Downtown Urban Design District.

The decision to expand the boundaries was partly due to growing interest in development in the Samuels Avenue corridor, DFWI President Andy Taft said.

“If there’s anything that frustrates developers, it’s a lack of clarity,” Taft said. “We’re trying to ensure that high quality development occurs in downtown, and we’re trying to make it easy for the developers to understand what the vision and the requirements are in the center city. I think we accomplished both.”

An existing development that already reflects the downtown design standards is the Lincoln Park at Trinity Bluff apartments at 520 Samuels Ave., Taft said.

The Lincoln apartments are part of a 45-acre project by Fort Worth developer Tom Struhs. He said he had Lincoln built to the downtown design standards even though the area was not part of the district at the time.

Expanding the boundary would make the standards formal, he said.

“We feel like this district allows us to have continuity of quality and design,” Struhs said.

The city council created the Downtown Urban Design District in 2001, and its last revision was in 2009.

The Zoning Commission approved the expanded district and its revised guidelines on May 11.

Tarleton site annexed

The city council approved the annexation of nearly 570 acres, which will be used for Tarleton State University’s new campus as well as other residential and commercial projects. The vote was 8-0, with Espino absent.

The land, owned by Canadian real estate investment and development group The Walton Group of Companies, is located east of the Fort Worth & Western Railroad and west of the intersection of Chisholm Trail Parkway and Granbury Road.

“This is pretty exciting stuff,” said Councilmember Jungus Jordan, whose district includes the property. “I’m just proud as punch.”

With the annexed property, the development totals more than 1,700 acres. Tarleton’s campus will be the first phase of development, covering about 80 acres. Other plans include 895 acres of single-family housing, 32 acres of multifamily and 172 acres of mixed-use buildings.

The area currently generates about $4,954 in property tax revenue each year, according to a city staff report. Once the development is built, the city estimates property tax revenue to increase to $7.4 million over the next 10 years.

Tarleton aims to open its Fort Worth campus by 2019. The campus will be located at the southwest corner of the Chisholm Trail Parkway-Granbury Road intersection. Austin-based planning firm Broaddus Planning is developing the concept plan.

Residential for Renaissance Square

The residential component of Renaissance Square is moving forward as the city council approved the project’s site plan on June 14. The vote was 8-0, with Espino absent.

The project consists of five three-story buildings and 140 apartment units. It will be located south of East Berry Street near U.S. Highway 287, south of the Walmart store.

Happy Baggett, the Fort Worth developer leading the Renaissance Square project, said construction should start this year.

Atlanta-based real estate developer Columbia Residential will manage the apartments.

Other plans for Renaissance Square include senior housing, townhomes, office space and additional retail. Baggett said he estimates the project as a whole to cost upwards of $250 million.

Airporter apartments

The former site of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport’s park-and-ride Airporter bus service downtown has been rezoned to make way for an apartment complex.

The council voted 8-0 vote on June 14, with Espino absent, to rezone the land at 904 E. Weatherford St. from industrial to commercial zoning.

The city’s Housing Finance Corp. is partnering with Fort Worth Housing Solutions (FWHS) to build a four-story, 219-unit apartment complex and parking garage.

The construction date has not been finalized, but FWHS hopes to start building in 2017, said Sydnee Freeman, FWHS senior real estate development project manager. She said the preliminary cost estimate for the project is about $35 million.

The building design will need approval from the Downtown Design Review Board before moving forward.

Council Notes

• Waterside project delay: Trademark Property Co., developer of the Waterside restaurant/retail center at Bryant Irvin Road and Arborlawn Drive, is asking that the city extend the project’s Phase 1 deadline from Dec. 31, 2016, to March 31, 2017. The project faced several delays due to inclement weather between October 2014 and January 2016, according to a city staff report. The city council will vote on the deadline extension on June 21.

• Rosedale reconstruction: The city council voted to increase spending for the ongoing reconstruction of East Rosedale Street, a project that the city, state and federal government are funding together. The city will raise its contribution from about $3.5 million to $8.5 million, which will help pay for water, sewer and traffic signal improvements. The project totals $22.9 million.

• City Hall address change: City Hall could be getting a new address. Currently, City Hall and the A.D. Marshall Building have the same address, 1000 Throckmorton St. To avoid confusion, the city is discussing changing City Hall’s address to 200 Texas St. If the city council decides to change the address, it would take effect Jan. 1.

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