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Council Report: M&O, Leonard’s museum building to get makeover; QuikTrip on McCart set

🕐 8 min read

Plans to build a QuikTrip on the southwest corner of McCart Avenue and Interstate 820 are moving forward despite opposition that the gas station would attract crime and increase traffic.

The Fort Worth City Council voted May 3 to vacate a portion of Lubbock Avenue and close a portion of Southgate Drive to accommodate the project. The vote was 7-1, with Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray absent and Councilwoman Ann Zadeh voting “no.” Lubbock Avenue will be vacated to replat the property for the gas station and convenience store. Southgate Drive will be closed to keep drivers from cutting through the South Hills South neighborhood to get to McCart Avenue, which was one of the concerns neighbors expressed when speaking in opposition to the project.

“The traffic will only be the folks that live in the neighborhood, which is desirable by most neighborhoods,” said Councilman Jungus Jordan, whose district includes the QuikTrip project. “You don’t want your neighborhood streets being used as major arterials to get to places.”

Back in October, the city council voted to change the area’s zoning from residential to commercial, allowing the QuikTrip project to move forward. Prior to the vote, opponents of the QuikTrip expressed concern that a gas station would attract crime to the neighborhood and add to the existing traffic in the area – traffic that prompted drivers to use neighborhood streets like Lubbock Avenue as a shortcut to get to McCart Avenue. QuikTrip promised to tackle the traffic issue by closing Southgate Drive and vacating Lubbock Avenue, so the city council approved the zoning change.

QuikTrip then needed approval from the City Plan Commission in order to move forward. When the City Plan Commission met March 23, no QuikTrip representatives showed up to speak in favor of the project. City Planning Manager Mary Elliott said QuikTrip’s absence was partly due to the city misspelling the company’s email address as “QuickTrip” instead of “QuikTrip” in the city’s notification emails to the company. Consequently, only opponents came to speak at the City Plan Commission meeting, and the commission rejected QuikTrip’s plans.

QuikTrip then appealed to the city council, requesting a reversal of the City Plan Commission’s decision, which the city council granted.

Jordan said he saw the case as a “housekeeping” issue, since the zoning change had already been approved and QuikTrip had purchased the property on both sides of Lubbock Avenue.

“In one respect, it’s a property rights issue,” Jordan said. “In another, it’s just sustaining or going with what has already been approved in the zoning plan.”

Construction on the QuikTrip is expected to begin mid-August and finish by February 2017.

QuikTrip has experienced growth in Tarrant County over the past decade, going from 17 locations in 2005 to 50 locations in 2015, according to QuikTrip spokesperson Mike Thornbrugh. In addition to the incoming McCart Avenue location, the company also plans to add three pumps and additional parking to its 1101 Hemphill St. location, a project expected to begin in September and finish in December.

M&O, Leonard’s museum building to get makeover

The building that houses M&O Station Grill and the Leonard’s Department Store Museum will soon be taking on a new look.

With an 8-0 vote as Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray was absent, the Fort Worth City Council voted May 3 to approve a tax break for the renovation of the 10,000 square-foot building at 200 Carroll Street. The tax break will be based on the increased value of improvements, estimated to be $27,441 over a five-year period.

Leading the project is Fort Worth real estate investment group M2G Ventures, which is currently one of the tenants in the building. Dallas-based GUIDE Architecture is serving as architect. Renovation plans include a redo of the building’s facade, new landscaping, more visible signage and a new patio for M&O Station Grill. M2G Ventures plans to invest $641,884 on the renovation. Construction begins in June.

“Our goal with this project is to be a quilt of restaurants, retail, offices and museum for the surrounding neighborhood and for those looking for the hidden gem off of Seventh Street,” M2G Ventures Principal Susan Gruppi said.

Along with M2G Ventures, M&O Station Grill and the Leonard’s Department Store Museum, the building is also home to Fort Worth Screen Printing, Creative Ammo and Art Room.

Business should run as usual throughout the renovation, said M&O Station Grill Owner Rose Badillo.

Badillo, whose restaurant has operated in the building for the past nine years, said she’s glad to see the renovation taking shape. She said business has slowed since the construction of the Henderson Street bridge, as customers have opted to shop and eat on the other side of the bridge to avoid traffic.

She said she hopes the renovation will create more visibility for her restaurant and the neighboring businesses.

“It’s been along time coming,” she said.

No blood plasma center

No blood plasma collection center is coming to Altamesa Boulevard.

The Fort Worth City Council unanimously denied a zoning change on May 3 that would have allowed blood plasma collection company ImmunoTek to build a 12,000 square-foot facility at 3001 Altamesa Blvd. The company wanted to add “PD” Planned Development zoning to the area’s existing “E” Neighborhood Commercial zoning, which currently does not allow a blood plasma center.

City Councilman Jungus Jordan, whose district includes the location where the blood plasma center was proposed, said the development did not comply with the city’s plan for the area.

He said the city would rather see developments like banks, restaurants and retail –healthcare didn’t quite fit into the mix.

Some area residents felt the same way, expressing their concern to the Zoning Commission back in April.

“It would be detrimental to our area of the city,” said Steve Epstein, president of the Hallmark Camelot-Highland Terrace Neighborhood Association. “Our neighborhood definitely supports economic development along Altamesa that is within the current ‘E’ Neighborhood Commercial zoning designation. It is the more intensive use of the blood plasma collection center that we’re opposing.”

Other residents, like Westcreek Central Neighborhood Association President Kamethia Perez, said the blood plasma center might attract the wrong kinds of people who would give blood for money.

“ ‘Pay for plasma’ centers will attract people who are not stakeholders in our community,” Perez said. “They will create safety issues.”

After hearing public comment, the Zoning Commission voted to recommend that the city council deny the zoning change, and the city council did.

“There’s always emotion involved in neighborhoods and cases,” Jordan said. “You have to sort through the emotion and get to the real issue. The real issue here is, is it compatible with the other businesses in the area or the businesses that you’re trying to attract?”

Botanic Garden improvements

The city is continuing work on its strategic plan for the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and asking the public to comment on ways the garden can be improved.

The city plans to hold a public meeting on July 25 at the Botanic Garden lecture hall. This will be the third public meeting in the garden’s strategic planning process (the other two meeting were held in April and May). The city has been working to create the Fort Worth Botanic Garden Strategic Plan since September. The purpose of the strategic plan is to study the garden’s operations, staffing and other items in comparison to gardens around the nation and find ways to improve. The plan will also have steps to implement the Fort Worth Botanic Garden Master Plan, which included additional gardens, improved entryways and other amenities. According to a city staff report, the master plan was adopted in 2010 but had no strategy for implementation, prompting the city to take steps in creating a strategic plan. In March, the city hired St. Louis-based EMD Consulting Group to help form the plan.

The study is scheduled to finish in the late summer, with the city council voting on the strategic plan on Sept. 20. The public can also send comments via email at BGStrategicPlan@fortworthtexas.gov.

Vehicle-for-hire ordinance changes

Though the city council is expected to vote on changes to the city’s vehicle-for-hire ordinance on May 17, the council asked staff to continue to discussion as some council members disagree with some of the proposed amendments.

“I just think this has turned into a political hot potato,” Mayor Betsy Price said.

The city has spent over a year discussing changes to the city’s vehicle-for-hire ordinance to include Uber, Lyft and other transportation network companies, known as TNCs.

The vehicles-for-hire ordinance currently regulates taxis, limousines and shuttles but not TNCs. Some of the proposed changes include having the city write regulations for TNCs, having TNC drivers pay a $75 fee to obtain a city permit and requiring TNCs to report regularly to the city.

Doug Wiersig, director of Transportation and Public Works, said the goal has been to keep government regulation at a minimum.

But some city council members disagree with the proposed changes. Council member Jungus Jordan said the regulations create “bureaucracy.”

“Are we going to have Uber police that go out and stop somebody and say ‘Where’s your permit?’ ” he said. “There’s a technology that the users pull up, and they know who their driver is, and they rate that driver. So what’s the purpose of a permit other than bureaucracy?”

If the city council votes on the revised ordinance on May 17 as scheduled, the changes would be effective Oct. 1.

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