Northside apartment plan gets zoning nod

A. Lee Graham

Traffic and future maintenance concerns failed to dissuade the Fort Worth City Council from setting the stage for a $65 million upscale apartment complex planned to overlook the Trinity River at Northside Drive. By 6-2 vote, the council on June 4 approved rezoning 15 acres from planned development for general commercial uses to planned development in all uses, including high-density multifamily. Voting against the rezoning were District 8 Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray and District 9 Councilman Joel Burns. Mayor Betsy Price was out of town and did not vote. The prospect of multifamily, or apartments, made some residents of the nearby Oakhurst neighborhood nervous. “How do you support 500 more homes?” said Patty Law, a third-generation Oakhurst homeowner. Still, Law said she applauds development – “That’s how the city has a future,” she said – but questioned how area roadways would be maintained. Voicing support for the rezoning was Janice Michel, another longtime Oakhurst resident. “Never would I support any development that would adversely affect our neighborhood,” Michel said. “Opposing new development destroys growth, and without growth, decay follows.” Results of a traffic study, as well as split neighborhood opinion, delayed the council’s decision in at least two recent council meetings. But the study, conducted by Savant Group Inc., found that traffic challenges would exist even without a new apartment development. Asked by District 2 Councilman Sal Espino what sort of traffic improvements are planned, and a Savant traffic engineer said one of the firm’s recommendations would be adding an Interstate 35W frontage road with an additional left turn lane. Ongoing population growth in the area would have required that even without apartment traffic, the engineer said. Legend Bank owns the 15-acre property along Northside Drive near Interstate 35W. Plans for the apartment complex, named Cityview at Riverside, call for two phases. The first would feature 300 units in five stories, with parking at ground level. Phase two will add 200 units in four stories, also with parking on the ground level as well as surface parking. Though the apartments plan is not part of the Trinity River Vision project, officials with the Tarrant Regional Water District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began meeting with the project architect in August 2011 to work through floodplain concerns and drainage studies, among other issues specific to the site. “We’ll be high and dry,” said project architect Ken Schaumburg, whose firm plans to follow the Army Corps of Engineers’ suggested that a drainage ditch running across the property be channelized and ensure that runoff water is filtered before reaching the Trinity River. The apartment complex would offer single-, two- and three-bedroom units, with the average size at about 1,000 square feet. Having secured zoning approval, project engineers are working on site drawings and plan to obtain a building permit when those are complete, likely by year’s end, Schaumburg said. Construction would take another year. In other business, the council paved the way for alcoholic beverage sales near schools and public hospitals in the Central Business District, as well as Near Southside, Trinity Uptown and West Seventh Urban Village mixed-use zoning districts. The action amended rules prohibiting such commerce within 300 feet of such facilities. Because the city’s comprehensive plan encourages pedestrian-focused, mixed-use neighborhoods, such a distance requirement “would create an insufficient use of land under the comprehensive plan” and “would create an undue hardship on businesses in these districts,” according to the meeting agenda. The new rules affect Trimble Tech High School, Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary School and Young Women’s Leadership Academy, both its new location in downtown and its old location on West Magnolia Avenue. Also affected are Cassata Learning Center and Montessori at Sundance Square, both private schools, as well as the University of Texas at Arlington Fort Worth Center, Tarrant County College’s downtown campus and the University of North Texas Health Science Center.