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Monday, April 12, 2021

Como area on cusp of revitalization: Property sales, city plan lining up for historic area

The Como area in West Fort Worth could soon be undergoing redevelopment as several lots are being offered for sale and the city recently created a neighborhood empowerment zone in the area.

On the market in Como are 66 lots.

“Most of them lie on the outskirts of the neighborhood that are only two to three blocks off highly trafficked roads like Vickery and Horne Street,” said Clint Renfro of Vision Commercial Real Estate, who is marketing the properties.

Renfro notes that many of the lots – totaling 411,850 square feet – have spectacular views of two high profile areas of the city.

“You will notice that this owner was very strategic in acquiring these lots. Some of these views off Farnsworth and other streets are incredible and overlook Clearfork and the TCU stadium,” he said.

The owners of the properties are Old Fort Worth Development Ltd. who have been acquiring the real estate in the area over the past 10 or so years.

Some neighborhood leaders are concerned that new development will change the character of the historically African-American neighborhood. City Councilman for District 3 Brian Byrd said he wants the developer to work with area leaders.

“I have encouraged the developer to discuss his intentions and desires with the Lake Como Leadership,” said Byrd in an email.

The Como neighborhood sits on the western border of Arlington Heights and dates back to the late 1800s, when the H.B. Chamberlain Investment Co. of Denver, Colorado, built the Lake Como dam in 1889.

The area then included a recreation resort with pavilion, casino and amusement rides, and was named for Como, Italy. A streetcar line provided transportation between the lake area and other parts of town.

The panic of 1893 brought down the Chamberlain Co.

Prices fell and the area became home to many African-Americans who worked in the area. First settled by black families in the early 1900s, residents developed a thriving neighborhood over the passing decades.

The Neighborhood Empowerment Zone (NEZ) projects, passed by the Fort Worth City Council earlier this year, promotes the creation or rehabilitation of affordable housing, an increase in economic development, and an increase in the quality of social services, education, or public safety provided to residents of the designated neighborhoods.

“The Como Neighborhood Empowerment Zone has been a critical tool for continuing to revitalize the Como area with single-family home development,” Byrd said during a discussion of the NEZ. “Moving forward, it our desire to see the NEZ used to spur commercial economic development in the heart of Como and Sunset Heights, including Horne Street.”

Since late 2014, Como stakeholders have participated in a planning process that included two workshops, seven public meetings, surveys and polling, and 18 advisory committee meetings. The advisory committee, comprised of the officers of the Como Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC) and other Como residents, helped identify and refine the goals and recommendations of the plan.

“The plan provides a guide for the revitalization of the Como/Sunset Heights Neighborhood Empowerment Zone,” said Randle Harwood, director planning and development. “It seeks to identify strategies and partnerships that will enable the growth of small business and enhance and diversify the housing stock in a way that seeks to respect the history and heritage of the neighborhood while looking forward to a diverse and promising future.”

One of the goals is to develop Horne Street into a vibrant business district serving retail and commercial businesses and strengthen existing businesses.

Among the attributes the Como area has to offer, noted in the strategic plan’s executive summary, are its close proximity to major employment centers and cultural attractions, numerous vacant lots that are suitable for quality affordable and market rate infill housing and new commercial development, and an active and engaged neighborhood association.

– This story contains information from the Fort Worth Business Press archives


Como/Sunset Heights Neighborhood Empowerment Zone

Full report: bit.ly/ComoSunset

The plan’s five goals and strategies include:

– Development

Goal: Amend the city’s Future Land Use map to apply the recommended designations in order to guide future development. Adopt and apply NEZ Design Guidelines (Appendix A) to ensure that NEZ benefits support projects that improve the community.

Strategies: (1) Apply the Urban Residential Future Land Use designation in target locations to facilitate walkable, pedestrian-oriented, mixed density residential development that provides a range of housing choices. (2) Expand the Mixed-Use Future Land Use designation to facilitate higher density, mixed-use development along the northern section of Horne Street. (3) Expand the Neighborhood Commercial Future Land Use designation to accommodate additional neighborhood-serving retail and commercial businesses along the northern to mid-section of Horne Street. (4) Apply design guidelines for new development and substantial redevelopment projects that address the following categories: Setbacks and yards, building massing and scale, site design and landscaping, driveways and garages, roofs and windows, porches and entries.

– Housing

Goal: Improve the housing stock in the Como neighborhood by developing quality new affordable and market rate single-family infill housing, as well as limited higher density mixed-income housing in target locations; stabilize and rehabilitate the existing housing stock.

Strategies: (1) Build quality new affordable and market rate single-family infill housing on vacant lots. (2) Provide housing choice opportunities with higher density well-designed townhomes, apartments, and condominiums in target locations. (3) Provide housing support (rehabilitation and foreclosure prevention) to existing homeowners. (4) Establish public/private partnerships to achieve housing production and intervention targets over the next 20 years.

– Neighborhood-Focused Economic Development

Goal: Develop Horne Street into a vibrant business district with new neighborhood-serving re-tail and commercial businesses and strengthen existing businesses.

Strategies: (1) Redevelop and revitalize the Horne Street corridor by implementing infrastructure improvements within the public right-of-way and stimulating land use changes and building redevelopment. (2) Develop a small business recruitment and support program. (3) Develop an entrepreneurial development and support program. (4) Establish a business/merchant association.

– Livability Enhancements

Goal: Establish comprehensive programs and initiatives for livability enhancements in the Como neighborhood.

Strategies: (1) Enhance public parkland. (2) Promote transportation connectivity, safety, and mobility choice. (3) Undertake public infrastructure investments in a timely manner. (4) Utilize research-based public safety prevention strategies to reduce crime and code violations. (5) Establish an adult job training and workforce development program. (6) Establish a coalition of appropriate organizations/agencies to focus on poverty reduction. (7) Undertake programs and initiatives to protect, capture, and showcase the heritage of the Como neighborhood.

– Capacity Building

Goal: The Como community will have the capacity to be an engaged and effective partner in its revitalization, which shall be supported and guided by benchmarks, measures, and an implementation schedule.

Strategies: (1) Expand the committee structure of the Como NAC to work directly on revitalization goals. (2) Develop public/private partnerships between the Como NAC and public and private organizations to assist with selected revitalization strategies. (3) Establish a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit Community-Based Organization (CBO) to undertake fund raising, etc. for revitalization projects and programs.

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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