Planners pursue West Side development

Ridgmar Mall

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Retail, housing and transportation issues will be discussed at the next Texas 183 Corridor Master Plan community meeting, set for 6 p.m. Wednesday March 3, at River Oaks Community Center, 5300 Blackstone Drive in River Oaks.

North Central Texas Council of Governments

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The route to West Fort Worth retail may be through its roadways, according to an ongoing study.

“The focus of this corridor master plan is to get more economic development throughout the area,” said Kendall Wendling, senior transportation planner with the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

Since 2013, the Arlington-based agency and communities surrounding the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base have examined the Texas 183 corridor that brings traffic in and out of the area surrounding the base and areas to the north of Ridgmar Mall. The mall itself is not included in the study area.

From Sansom Park and White Settlement to Westworth Village, River Oaks and Benbrook, municipalities have discussed ways to bring more restaurants, retail and housing options into the area. The idea is to support development compatible with base operations.

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Funding the study is the Regional Transportation Council, among other sources. The goal of what officials call Planning for Livable Military Communities is to attract businesses to the area to maximize its existing cultural and retail resources.

Officials continue to review options to revive what some consider a part of town in the shadow of other areas enjoying a development bonanza.

“Look at the North Side, the big success that Alliance has had with what the Hillwood organization created up there,” said Stephen Coslik, chairman of Woodmont Property Co., referring to Ross Perot Jr.’s Hillwood Properties and the massive development at AllianceTexas.

“They have been the bellwether for Cowtown growth for the last 15 or 20 years. But the challenge West Fort Worth is having right now is not a lot of new housing growth and not a lot of new job growth out there,” Coslik said.

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Though Walsh Ranch continues to attract prospective homebuyers to the planned residential community west of Fort Worth, few new housing options have appeared near the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Ridgmar Mall and other primary landmarks west of where Camp Bowie Boulevard meets the Weatherford traffic circle, an area considered by planners as the heart of West Fort Worth.

But not all housing, retail or office options are allowed in the area, as part of the airport-airfield overlay district stipulates what is and is not allowed near the Joint Reserve Base.

“The overlay is pretty specific about the types of businesses that can go in there,” said District 3 Fort Worth Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, whose district includes parts of West Fort Worth.

“The Joint Reserve Base is a very important part of the Fort Worth economy, and all this is being done to protect that base,” Zimmerman said of the study.

Though employers have moved no major manufacturing plants or similarly large operations to West Fort Worth in recent months, Zimmerman pointed to Buffalo West restaurant opening in a former Steak & Ale location and Medstar opening operations on Alta Mere Drive as examples of new businesses that have opened their doors in the shadow of the Joint Reserve Base.

While Coslik questioned the amount of available land for residential neighborhoods, Zimmerman pointed to vast tracts surrounding the West Camp Bowie-Loop 820 area.

“There’s not a shortage of West Side areas to create new, additional housing,” Zimmerman said.

Though outside city limits, Walsh Ranch stands to benefit West Fort Worth, according to an economic development official who’s helped bring more than a few major employers to town.

“When those houses come online next year, the mall and other retail projects will be able to add to their traffic count,” said David Berzina, executive vice president of economic development with the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

“That will be huge because those homes will range from $325,000 to $800,000, so the buying power will be much larger than it is right now,” Berzina said.

With Fort Worth’s population growing between 3 and 4 percent a year, Berzina said additional retail will be required to meet that growing population’s needs.

“Every part of Fort Worth will have retail opportunities where there’s housing close by. And the housing out west will dramatically affect Ridgmar Mall positively,” Berzina said.

How the mall will serve that growing population — and in what form it will take after a planned renovation — remains unknown.

“They have a huge challenge in front of them,” Coslik said of the mall’s relevance as more shoppers favor quicker-access retail with parking at storefronts instead of traditional department store-anchored malls that requires more walking.

“It’s a changing retail environment. I think many folks will be curious to see what happens at Ridgmar Mall and the West Side,” Coslik said.

Ridgmar Mall faces some challenges following the announced departures of two anchor tenants – Neiman Marcus and Macy’s.

GK Development Inc., the owner of the mall, in January announced that it is negotiating the purchase of additional space from anchor tenants for future mall redevelopment, according to the Barrington, Ill.-based firm.

The first phase of a three-phase makeover calls for new paint, lighting and new railings on the second floor. Meanwhile, Cinemark also has completed a $3-million remodel, with the first H&M store in Fort Worth opening last year at the mall in a 20,693-square-foot space.