Landmarks Commission approves expanded Stockyards historic district

This outline shows the city council's proposed Stockyards historic district boundary (blue) and the Landmarks Commission's expanded boundary (red). Illustration courtesy of the city of Fort Worth.

The Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission voted Monday to approve an expanded version of the Stockyards historic district and reject the smaller district that the Fort Worth City Council favors.

With the vote, the Landmarks Commission is recommending that the council approve the larger district when it votes on the issue April 5. Regardless of the Landmarks Commission’s recommendation, however, the final decision will be up to the council.

The Zoning Commission will also vote March 9 on the recommendations it will send to city council regarding the historic district. The council will consider the Landmarks Commission’s recommendations and the Zoning Commission’s recommendations before taking final action.

The council-backed district roughly encompasses a portion of Houston Street on the west, part of Stockyards Boulevard on the north, Niles City Boulevard on the east and 23rd Street on the south. The expanded district covers roughly the same area, but also includes more of 23rd Street and the area east of Niles City Boulevard. The expanded boundaries allow the former Swift and Co. property and Armour and Co. property to be included in the district.

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“If we look at the originally delineated council boundary, it does represent what the core of that area it is, but it certainly doesn’t represent the context of that boundary,” Commission Chair Gannon Gries said.

But some feel the expanded boundary would hinder development. Kerby Smith, senior vice president of Majestic Realty, said he opposes the expanded historic district. Majestic is the developer working with the Hickman family on a $175 million redevelopment project in the Stockyards, which includes the mule barn redevelopment expected to begin this year.

The mule barn project falls within the historic district and received approval from the Landmarks Commission last October.

“Designation alone doesn’t save buildings,” Smith said. “Investment saves buildings. We’re doing that and we’re living testament to that. We don’t believe an expanded boundary does what’s necessary to preserve the Stockyards.”

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The Landmarks Commission teamed with Historic Fort Worth Inc., a nonprofit organization that works to preserve the city’s historic properties, to draw the expanded boundary. The commission finalized the boundary at a special meeting held Jan. 29.

If the council passes the historic district, developers have to follow a set of rules that govern what can and cannot be built within that district. Those rules will be determined by a consultant team that the city plans to hire in the coming months.

The historic district will be located inside the design overlay district, which the city council approved Feb. 2. The design overlay district spans about 240 acres over the Stockyards and governs the design of new developments. The design overlay district will eventually be replaced by a stricter form-based code district, which will regulate both design and how the property can be used.

“I think preservation is very pro-development,” Gries said. “We want to see this area redevelop, but we want to see it redeveloped in a responsible way.”

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The commission also approved a recommendation regarding 14 structures that fall outside the council’s historic district boundary. Among those structures are the Cattle Run at 497 East Exchange Avenue and a scale house at 495 East Exchange Avenue. The commission is recommending that the city council give these structures historic designations. The council will make the final decision on these individual structures when it votes on the rest of the historic district.