Proposed zoning change makes waves near banks of Trinity River 

Rick Herring standing in front of the proposed site for two new warehouses next to Gateway Park in Fort Worth (Rachel Behrndt | Fort Worth Report)

When entering Gateway Park off of Beach Street in east Fort Worth, the road winds past the West Fork of the Trinity River and directly to Fort Woof, the city’s first dog park.

Directly to the left of the entrance is a piece of undeveloped land planned to be absorbed into Gateway Park, creating one of the largest urban parks in the country.

Those plans are now in jeopardy, according to several park advocates. Scannell Properties has applied for a change in zoning from the 100-500 block of Beach Street, a property currently owned by Robert H. Frost. The applicants hope to change the zoning from residential to medium industrial. The facility will be used for office space, distribution and delivery.

Daniel Haase, a longtime resident of the Central Meadowbrook neighborhood, said the project steps on other potential development in the area. 

- FWBP Digital Partners -

“We’re talking about a park that will rival the size of Central Park in New York,” Haase said. “A park that size deserves symbiotic development, and a warehouse simply is not that.”

Scannell Properties is a privately owned real estate investment company based in Indiana with projects around the U.S., Canada and Europe. The company said the development of that land presents an opportunity for Fort Worth.

Charles Knowlton, a senior development associate with the company, declined an interview but answered questions through email. He said the development will stimulate economic growth, create job opportunities and contribute to infrastructure improvements like curbs, gutters, a  new storm drainage system, sidewalks and deceleration lanes on Beach Street. 

Community organizations around Riverside and Meadowbrook raised concerns after a zoning notice was sent out by the city in October. Rick Herring, moderator of the Riverside Alliance, said he’s concerned about the aesthetic impact of the project and the traffic it could cause.

- Advertisement -

The developers said they foresee minimal impact on traffic. Based on their experience with Beach Street traffic, neighbors and advocates said they don’t anticipate that road improvements and traffic mitigation strategies will be enough to avoid bottlenecks with the addition of the new facility. 

“We don’t feel like according to the city’s comprehensive plan, this area should be industrial,” Herring said. 

Fort Worth’s comprehensive plan outlined a future for Gateway Park that includes equestrian trails and ecosystem restoration. The city’s plan was updated in 2018 alongside the Trinity River Vision Master Plan

In December 2021, Fort Worth, the Tarrant Regional Water District and the Army Corps of Engineers erected an illustration of the updated plan outside Gateway Park. The map includes the proposed site of the warehouses and designates the area for hiking trails, a new playground and an ecosystem restoration site. 

- Advertisement -

Scenic Fort Worth is also in opposition to the development. The non-profit organization said the warehouses will be a blight on a park that has been in continuous development since the 1970s, when the non-profit Streams & Valleys began the process of beautifying the Trinity River and its surroundings. 

Scenic Fort Worth Board President Judy Harman and board member Louise Appleman said progress on the park has been a long time coming. 

“That’s literally 34 years of inch by inch work,” Appleman said. 

In its zoning report, city staff acknowledged that this proposed zoning change is not consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan. The report also points out that the land is currently vacant and is surrounded by the zoned industrial property to the east and south of the site. 

Developers said they chose the location because of its proximity to major highways like Interstate 30 and Highway 121. Some portions of the property are already zoned light and medium industrial and the area has a concrete fill from a previous gravel mining operation. 

Further down Beach Street is a long-standing neighborhood. If the zoning change is approved, the neighborhood will be directly across from the warehouses. The block is 86% Hispanic with a median household income of $59,712, according to 2019 census estimates.

Advocates against the change said they aren’t against development of any kind near the park, but said such a stark deviation from the city’s original master plan creates a missed opportunity for residential and retail development on the east side. 

Relationship with TRWD

Despite concerns voiced by neighbors, Fort Worth staff recommended that the zoning commission approve the application. If the project is approved, the issue will move to the City Council for final approval. 

Fort Worth is expected to spend over $6 million improving Gateway Park as part of the Panther Island/Central City Flood Project. Gateway Park is also within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Valley Storage plan to create water storage areas for a future bypass channel. 

To date, the corps have spent $60 million on five valley storage sites. An additional $64 million is set to come from the latest infusion of federal funds. 

Stacey Pierce, executive director with Streams & Valleys, said she hopes the city will reject the zoning request and stay true to the plan set in motion by her organization decades ago. 

“East Fort Worth is one of the only places where you can see the river as it used to be before it was channelized,” Pierce said. “If we could see the original plan come to fruition that would be outstanding.”

The proposed site for rezoning is still pictured on the Panther Island/Central City Flood Project website. Chad Lorance, spokesman for the water district, declined to comment.

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article was originally published by Fort Worth Report.