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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Historic building in Fairmount set for commercial, residential development

Scott Nishimura snishimura@bizpress.net

The former College Avenue Baptist Church Sunday School & Athletic Building is getting a new life. 

The historic three-story brick building – a former church gym built in 1925 – has stood vacant and for sale on the north end of Fort Worth’s Fairmount neighborhood for about as long as anyone remembers.

But it has a new owner and, potentially, a new life. Kris Fagala, a Grapevine businessman, has purchased it and plans to rehab it with first-floor commercial such as architect offices and two floors of high-end loft apartments.

“I’ve been trying to buy it for 10 years,” Fagala said in an interview. “I had a deal with the owner. Then he kind of disappeared and went silent.”

Fagala learned the man died. And after about a year’s worth of discussions with his niece, Fagala closed on the purchase in January.

The 28,000-square-foot building – the former College Avenue Baptist Church gym at 1329 College Ave., one block south of West Magnolia Avenue’s new restaurants and bars – has long been a curiosity in Fairmount, as the neighborhood gentrified around it. Homebuyers in recent years bought the lots to the east and north of the building and erected pricey new homes in its shadow. People in real estate circles have said the owner wanted too much.

Fagala, who’s been in the engineering and air conditioning business for 25 years, said he and his wife learned about the building from friends while working college ministry at TCU. It’s had several owners and was last a ballet dance studio years ago.

He’s now working on getting the site rezoned to allow commercial and apartments, and obtaining permission from the city’s Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission to make some exterior alterations. Those include cutting a garage door into the south side of the building to allow access to parking Fagala plans inside, where an old swimming pool now sits.

Fagala declined to say how much he paid for the building, and said he hasn’t determined what he’ll invest in it, which he characterized as mostly in good shape. The Tarrant Appraisal District valued the property at $230,500. 

Fagala said he’s still working on the number of apartments he’ll put in and their rents. He plans on one or two units of “light commercial” on the first floor.

“And by light commercial, I do not mean bar, restaurant or retail at all,” Fagala said. “We absolutely are not going to bring a bar or restaurant into that neighborhood,”

Flag’s proposed rezoning – from community facility to planned development/mixed-use – would allow the commercial and residential.

The mixed-use-1 zoning would prohibit bars, said Jocelyn Murphy, city planning manager for zoning. It would not prohibit a restaurant selling alcohol, but the building is across the street from Fort Worth’s DeZavala Elementary School. And if the door-to-door distance is less than 300 feet, no restaurant in Fagala’s building could sell alcohol, under city ordinance, Murphy said.

Fagala, as part of the planned development zoning, could also agree to exclude restaurants and other objectionable uses as permissible.

Steve Halliday, president of the Fairmount Neighborhood Association, said a few neighbors want to ensure no bar would be allowed on the property. Broadly, the association wants to ensure the project results in little traffic impact.

“Anytime, you come in here and redo and old building, keep it low-key,” Halliday said.

Halliday said he likes the idea of lofts and light commercial. “Maybe even an artist’s studio would be a good use,” he said.  

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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