Mixed-use project under study south of downtown

Scott Nishimura snishimura@bizpress.net

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority, Fort Worth Housing Authority, city and Fort Worth South are teaming up to study whether there’s a market for a mixed-use residential, parking, and commercial complex on a 2.1-acre parking lot south of T&P Station on the near south side.

The complex could be one or two buildings of up to 10 stories apiece and include a mix of market-rent apartments and ones available to people who make less than area median income.

The team members envision such a development, which would be next to Fort Worth’s westernmost Trinity Railway Express terminus and planned launchpad for downtown-D/FW Airport TexRail trains and on two bus lines, would help Fort Worth fill its desire for more transit-oriented development around public transit stations, better serving commuters, funneling more workers to employment hubs like the airport, and taking cars of the streets.

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They also believe it could spur redevelopment in the city’s South Main Urban Village, where an $8 million remake of the street from Vickery to West Magnolia Avenue is underway that will include reconstruction, bike lanes, trees, lights, and other pedestrian-friendly improvements. More activity on South Main would deepen the appeal of living in the new buildings, the team members say.

“We think it’s a very attractive location,” Ramon Guajardo, a former Fort Worth assistant city manager who is consulting with the Housing Authority on the potential project, said.

“Our board of directors is interested, and the agencies have some very common interests, but we’re a few steps away from anything concrete right now,” Nancy Amos, Fort Worth T senior vice president, said. “We’re talking concepts here. We do know the site is big enough.”

“We’re all about trying to shorten the time between home and work,” Dana Burghdoff, Fort Worth’s deputy planning director and one of the city staffers working on the project, said.

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The T owns the rectangular site at South Main and Vickery, currently a popular 100-space free parking lot for TRE passengers. The north boundary of the site is the Interstate 30 overpass, which covers more TRE parking.

The T, Housing Authority and Near Southside’s city tax increment finance district have agreed to foot the $15,000 tab for a day-and-a-half public design workshop to be scheduled in June.

The Urban Land Institute and American Institute of Architects will help moderate a conversation on what the complex should look like and “what kind of impact would it have on the neighborhood,” Guajardo said.

Generally, the four team members are looking at buildings that have first-floor retail fronting Vickery, multiple levels of parking that would serve TRE riders and tenants in the new buildings, and multiple levels of apartments on top, Guajardo said.

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“We think between 200 and 250 apartments, one and two bedrooms,” he said.

The complex would include a strong component of affordable rents, “but we don’t know the actual ratio yet,” Guajardo said.

The city’s plans for the central city, its 16 urban villages, and transit-oriented development call for a mix of affordable-rate and market-rate housing.

“We want that mix of income,” Burghdoff said.

It’s not clear yet whether the affordable rents would be aimed at the market’s deepest need.

City staff members estimate there’s a surplus of affordable rents in Fort Worth for people who make between 60 and 80 percent of area median income.

But there’s a shortage of 16,000 affordable-rate units for people making 30 percent or less of area median income, the staff estimates.

“We have not made any income decisions yet,” Guajardo said. “We’re going to look at supplying the units that address the needs that exist.”

What’s next after the workshop: “If everything is still positive, we would probably come to some more firm agreement” between the Housing Authority and the T, Guajardo said.

Down the road, for the project to come off the drawing board, “there would be a significant level of private financing” repayable through the project’s cash flow, he said.

Under the current discussions, the site wouldn’t need a rezoning.

The Near Southside zoning allows for up to 10 stories, if mixed-use. If a single use, the zoning allows up to five stories.

The Housing Authority has been interested in transit-oriented development for years, Guajardo said. It zeroed in on the T site after surveying locations across the market for a potential first project, he said.

The next potential area for transit-oriented development is around the Intermodal Transportation Center downtown, Burghdoff said.

“That’s the next area that’s ripe for development,” she said. Most of the key lots are privately owned, making the proposition tougher for the agencies to get involved, she said.​