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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Historic Stockyards task force wrestles with standards

A 15-member task force has wrestled for months with design standards for improvements to a Stockyards-centered district to be funded in part with proceeds from a new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District.

And it still is.

Some members of the Historic Stockyards Design District Task Force seem confused or dissatisfied with their role in crafting the ordinance that will guide or govern new development or redevelopment of the 925-acre Stockyards Overlay District.

The proposed $175 million redevelopment includes much of the Hickman family’s Stockyards real estate holdings, including the Stockyards Station festival center, historic Mule Barns, cattle pens and the Swift-Armour “ruins” off of Niles City Boulevard. The mixed-use project includes roughly 1 million square feet in new development.

Task force members had a few questions about many key elements of the first draft of the design ordinance unveiled June 17 in a PowerPoint presentation by consultants Randy Gideon and Cassie King of Ibanez Architecture.

A few task board members and one audience member sought clarifications about varying height restrictions in the district’s six corridors – East and West Exchange, Stockyards Boulevard, Main Street, Marine Creek and the Swift-Armour area.

Both sides of Exchange – considered the core of the district – and parts of the other areas have maximum heights of three stories or 37 feet for new buildings, Gideon explained.

Other parts of the Main Street and Marine Creek corridors are capped at five stories or 60 feet while sections of Stockyards Boulevard and Swift-Armour are bound by existing mixed-use zoning – up to 10 stories or 120 feet, he said.

Karen Mitchell, a planner who helps other cities draft similar ordinances questioned the consistency of the height restrictions.

“We need more flexibility for development,” she said.

But some task force members want the authority to impose even tougher standards on existing and new development in the historic Stockyards.

“Is there anything we’re doing to seek to create rules so that that people have to maintain existing deteriorating facilities?” asked member Craig Cavileer, an executive of Majestic Realty, partner of the Hickman family in a proposed $175 million Stockyards redevelopment project.

Gideon said maintenance issues usually are not addressed in a design ordinance.

“I’m not sure if we could award incentives to maintain property,” he said.

Members Carlos Flores, a zoning commissioner and Northside Neighborhood Association representative, and Bob Adams, a Historic Fort Worth board member, asked if the new TIF funds could be used to supplement code enforcement and/or the city’s historic preservation officer.

Neither expenditure is allowed by TIF, which finances only infrastructure and public improvements to encourage development, said Deputy Planning Director Dana Burghdoff and Michael Hennig, a city economic development coordinator.

“You’re talking operational funds,” Hennig said. “You can’t use TIF funds.”

Hennig gave a brief update about the newly appointed TIF board, which is scheduled to meet July 15.

The City Council created the Stockyards-Northside TIF District in December. It is expected to generate $40 million in property taxes over 20 years from four taxing entities. That money pays for infrastructure related to redevelopment.

The task force was established to ensure business and property owners had a forum for input on the planned multimillion-dollar development in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards as a way to preserve the district’s integrity.

The project has been met with opposition since Hickman Investments announced last spring it had partnered with Los Angeles-based Majestic Realty in the $175 million project. The City Council approved $26 million in tax incentives for the project, which could bring hotels, residences, offices and livestock auctions to the district. Although the TIF board and the design task force are separate entities with different roles, task force and audience members asked why the task force wasn’t consulted about selection of the nine-member TIF board.

Hennig said the board is appointed by the TIF taxing entities – the city, county, college district and water district.

The TIF board will convene July 15, the day after the next task force meeting, to review changes Gideon said he would make based on task force and audience comments.

The task force, which initially was scheduled to disband by June 30, will take the draft to the public July 22. The task force will review it again July 29, when the Hickman-Majestic project and other development proposals will be updated.

Other scheduled meetings include an Aug. 12 review of the final draft, an Aug. 19 public review and a final Aug. 26 task force meeting.

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