Meacham, Northside support proposed

A. Lee Graham

Moving recycling yards away from North Main Street is just the first step in District 2 Councilman Sal Espino’s ambitious plans for property surrounding Fort Worth Meacham International Airport. Days after winning a fifth council term in the May 11 city elections, an emboldened Espino is pushing ahead with a proposed Meacham district. “The idea of a Meacham district is to promote the continued economic development and vitality of the airport,” said Espino. According to a 2009 city-commissioned study, the most recent study of its type, Fort Worth Meacham employs 2,497 people and has a total payroll of $93.7 million. To maximize the area’s employment and economic potential, Espino is rolling up his sleeves and pursuing plans to make the area more attractive to businesses that provide services to the airport. The first step in that process is under way, with Commercial Metals Co. moving from 601 N. Throckmorton St. to Quarry Falls Industrial Recycling Park, a 417-acre property developed by Keystone Equity Partners LLC at the northeast and southeast quadrants of Loop 820 and Old Decatur Road. The idea is to persuade metal recycling businesses along North Main Street to move elsewhere. Commercial Metals is being displaced due to the Trinity River Vision project, whose riverfront improvement plans include Commercial Metals’ property. While Commercial Metals already was set for relocation – with or without a Meacham district – Espino said it’s a positive step in revitalizing the area and strengthening interest in Meacham airport, which caters to business and general aviation travel. He hopes other recycling yards will consider relocating from the area as well, and said he plans to discuss the issue with their owners. “Management of our airport assets is critical,” said City Manager Tom Higgins at a recent city council session. A Meacham district also could benefit the Stockyards, Historic Marine Urban Village and Trinity Uptown in a broader effort to improve North Main Street. Achieving those ends could hinge on another ace up Espino’s sleeve: creating what might become known as Fort Worth Northside Inc. Analogous to Fort Worth South Inc., the nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing the Near Southside, its proposed northern counterpart would promote economic development and continued revitalization of North Fort Worth. “It is my goal to create this as a community development organization in this council term,” said Espino, although he acknowledged the funding challenges – and required staff – to create and run such a body. Neither the Meacham district nor Fort Worth Northside concepts have been discussed extensively, but Espino plans to get the ball rolling on the former plan by meeting with city staff, including aviation officials, as well as the aviation advisory board. “Then, we will send a letter to the owners of the recycling yards to discuss the issue,” said Espino. He is also hoping the district could breathe life into North Main Street’s Mercado development. After Deyla Guadiana, the initial project developer, secured a $3.1 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a 58,000-square-foot, Mexican-style marketplace, she scrapped the project and left it unfinished. The city reacquired the property and spent $1.3 million to complete the building. Its first floor is now partly leased, United Way of Tarrant County rents space on the second floor, and the top floor is rented for banquet and special events. Despite restaurant options discussed for the Mercado’s first floor, those plans have never reached fruition because a variance to sell beer or wine would be required since M.G. Ellis Elementary School stands nearby at 214 N.E. 14th St. Still, Espino has faith in the development in his overall vision. “It seems to be that the Mercado building, along with the Rose Marine Theater, are ideal for the continued development of cultural arts,” Espino said.