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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Conscious places: Developer captures local culture via public art programs

The story of Fort Worth continues to evolve and be told in compelling new ways thanks to public art initiatives currently underway at Trademark Property Co.’s WestBend and Waterside developments.

Founded in 1991 by chief executive Terry Montesi, Fort Worth-based Trademark today is committed to creating communities that are inspirational, educational and sustainable, and places where customers, retailers, vendors and other shareholders will feel emotionally connected.

Trademark is a corporate member of Conscious Capitalism Inc., a national nonprofit organization that promotes a values-based business strategy benefiting people and the environment. Inspired by the nonprofit, Trademark launched its Conscious Place initiative, a stakeholder-driven model dedicated to making sure the developer’s properties are more than just places of commerce, but also places of community and meaning.

The company’s Conscious Place concept can be seen at many of its nationwide retail and mixed-use town centers and shopping malls, including Texas locations of Watters Creek in Allen, Hillside Village in Cedar Hill, The Shops at La Palmera in Corpus Christi and Market Street in The Woodlands.

“We’re doing this from Florida to California. We invest in place-making amenities and sometimes that includes public art. Enriching stakeholders’ lives, enhancing their lives, educating and inspiring them is part of our mission and part of our responsibility,” Montesi said.

Montesi said Trademark strives to make each of its projects a reflection of the community in which it exists. The art programs in the company’s Fort Worth projects are intended to support local culture and arts through historical tributes and commissions by area artists.

“We want our places to be places people will enjoy. With e-commerce, people can acquire goods quickly and easily at home. But they can’t meet their friends, fall in love, get a massage or have the tactile experience of touching a cashmere sweater,” Montesi said about online shopping. “We believe if you’re going to be in the retail development business today, you’d better make your places a lot more than for just acquiring goods. We say evolve or die in the retail business. If you’re going to be successful in retail today you have to be more than just transactional.”

Art consultant Kenneth Turner assisted Trademark in the project. The company also hired Fort Worth landscape architect and urban designer Cassie King as director of innovation and design.

The company conducted several community engagement sessions and focus groups that resulted in the selection of three artists – Fort Worth muralist Devon Nowlin, Texas Christian University art professor and sculptor Cam Schoepp and internationally-renowned Texas Cosmic Cowboy artist Bob “Daddy-O” Wade – to create pieces that would add character to each property.

“If you’re going to be stakeholder-centered, you listen to your stakeholders,” said Montesi. “Every time in any city, we hear they want local artists, not national, nothing cookie cutter. With local artists, they feel invested. If people feel invested and they love your places and find an emotional connection, they’ll come more often and will bring their friends and family. We think it’s good business.”

WestBend

With ties to neighboring TCU, Nowlin and Schoepp are the featured artists at WestBend, a mixed-use retail and office complex located on the Trinity River in the University District. Acquired by Trademark, WestBend is undergoing a major transformation with new retail, restaurants and WestBend 2, an 81,150-square-foot building that includes retail anchor The Fresh Market on the ground floor and 57,000 square feet of Class A office space above. Trademark’s offices are housed in WestBend.

When completed, the redevelopment will contain 278,000 square feet of retail, office and dining space.

The growing tenant list at WestBend currently boasts East Hampton Sandwich Co., Zoes Kitchen, Silver Fox, Pax & Parker and Woodhouse Day Spa. HG Sply Co.,Tyler’s, CorePower Yoga, Drybar and Fort Worth Bike Share are expected to open in early spring.

“We continue to see a high level of leasing activity as WestBend nears completion,” Montesi said. “We can’t wait to unveil all of the new restaurants and retail that will open here.”

Some of the draws to the complex, King says, are the river, greenbelt and trails as well as the close proximity to the Fort Worth Zoo and TCU.

Nowlin created a series of large photographic murals inspired by fashion advertising and lifestyle marketing that capture the shopping and dining experience, health and fitness elements, and the natural surroundings of the property. The murals were installed in early December and focus on the areas facing the river and Trinity River Trails.

“I’m excited to see how visitors react to them when they encounter art in unexpected places,” Nowlin said. “I’m very appreciative that private entities are considering local artists and I think it’s really significant to the many people in Fort Worth that love art. I would like to see an expansion of similar artist and business partnerships in public art endeavors in the future.”

Schoepp will install a 10-foot tall sculpture spring incorporating a water feature this spring into the green space near WestBend’s valet area.

He calls Trademark’s public art programs a win-win for everybody.

“I believe in the importance of art and know it affects how people interact with their public space,” Schoepp said. “I am definitely an advocate for that as an art professor.”

Waterside

Currently under construction at Bryant Irvin Road and Arborlawn Drive, Waterside is a 63-acre mixed-use development being built in phases. Phase I, which is slated for completion in 2016, includes retail, restaurants, a public space called The Grove and many Conscious Place amenities such as a car charging station and a community garden.

Whole Foods Market will open a 45,000-square-foot anchor store, along with REI, both the first in Fort Worth. Plans for Waterside – which is Trademark’s only current ground-up development – call for 200,000 square feet of retail space and riverside restaurants, 20 acres of multifamily units and townhomes, office buildings and two to three hotels.

Trademark bought the property from the Lockheed Martin Recreation Association, which provided recreational facilities and activities for Lockheed Martin employees, retirees and their families. Wade is leading the public art program at Waterside and is designing a combination of sculpture and murals for the project.

“Terry Montesti explained the idea of Conscious Place to me. He said he wanted to add soul and character to each property, rather than buying existing art, which is rather a big deal and I just loved the whole concept,” Wade said.

Wade, who has worked with recycled materials in the past, will repurpose original amusement rides and play equipment from the 1950s found on the site into public art that will dot the property.

“When they opened the doors to the storage unit, there was a playground, carousel, amusement rides and I was like a kid in a candy store,” said Wade. “They all have this faded, antique look that we’re hoping to preserve. It’s like all of these components have been sleeping and we’ll bring them back to life.”

Wade plans four sculptures from the amusement park materials. An old jungle gym will be reshaped into an animated 10-foot-tall cowboy that will look like he’s taking a donkey from the carousel for a stroll.

“The second sculpture will be a big shish kabob of multi-colored components that tells the story of what used to be on the site,” Wade said. “It will consist of a 20-foot, vertical steel pipe with about five objects including an airplane, a tug boat and a carousel horse, kind of like a totem pole.”

Another sculpture, made from 20 of the carousel horses and suspended in the air, will cascade down toward the river, while the last sculpture crafted from jungle gym bars and slides will create an arched gateway for people entering the property.

Additionally, Wade is giving new life to vintage black and white photographs that tell the history of the property over the past 75 years by hand tinting the images and transforming them into on-site murals. The art is slated for installation in spring or summer.

“This is going to add an upbeat, fun, and colorful atmosphere to the project. Kids are going to love it. Adults are going to love it,” Wade said. “Without these visionary kind of people like Terry Montesi, I wouldn’t have this opportunity so I tip my hat to them. The story of Fort Worth continues and it’s taking a new form.”

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