A. Lee Graham firstname.lastname@example.org
Ridgmar Mall could receive a makeover as officials discuss modernizing the longtime shopping destination as part of an effort to spur economic development in West Fort Worth. “Malls have started to become the things of my generation,” said Dan Kessler, assistant director of transportation with the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Speaking May 1 at the Tarrant Regional Transportation Coalition’s monthly meeting, Kessler discussed transforming the mall into something more modern. In an interview, Kessler cited Southlake Town Square as an example of a modern retail center achieving success by incorporating retail and residential uses. But Kessler did not necessarily endorse that approach for Ridgmar Mall, saying it’s too early to discuss a specific direction for the mall, which opened in 1976. “I really think there is a tremendous opportunity to do some economic redevelopment in conjunction with that facility,” Kessler said. No specific plan has been proposed as officials discuss the idea while reviewing results of a recent study examining potential ways to bring more business into West Fort Worth – specifically, Westworth Village, River Oaks and other communities surrounding the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. The idea is to support development compatible with base operations. Funding the study was a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with a $200,000 local match from the Regional Transportation Coalition. 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. “Ultimately, what we’re focused on is keeping the Joint Reserve Base not only viable from a land-use perspective, but also supportive of the community as an economic-revitalization strategy,” Kessler said. Equally important is attracting new restaurant and retail choices, as well as improved housing for employees of Lockheed Martin, the Joint Reserve base and other major employers in the area, Kessler said. Although the grant seeded the study, no funding has been identified to pay for physical improvements that may be decided on in future months. To what degree Ridgmar Mall could be involved in the plan has not been determined, though Kessler said that its management has expressed enthusiasm about improved access in and out of the mall, better signage, increased visibility and other potential upgrades that could attract more customers. Kessler called the mall and surrounding area an “economic development node” that would improve through better signage, access and bike and pedestrian amenities. “It’s our hope then that there’s a partnership with local governments, transit agencies and the private sector,” Kessler said. The public can learn more at a community meeting set for May 9 at 6 p.m. at the River Oaks Community Center, 5300 Blackstone Dr. More information is available at www.nctcog.org/trans/aviation/jlus/hud.asp.