Thursday, September 23, 2021
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Stop Six historic district changes could affect future development

🕐 8 min read

It was a relatively quiet afternoon in the Stop Six historic district of southeast Fort Worth. Regina Blair drove slowly through the streets and pointed out the varying architectural styles of the neighborhood.

Many houses shared similarities. Some of the older ones were single story with wood siding and one-over-one windows. Other houses looked completely different. Some newer homes had brick facades. One house had two stories.

And then there were vacant houses with boarded-up windows, deteriorating wood and broken glass.

Though the houses of the district, known as historic Stop Six: Sunrise Edition, are a mix of old and new, the area as a whole has historical significance. It’s called “Stop Six” because it was the sixth stop in the Dallas-Fort Worth interurban train line of the early 1900s.

Blair, who is president of the Stop Six Sunrise Edition Neighborhood Association, said she wants to preserve the neighborhood’s history by protecting the architectural style of the older buildings, many of which were built in the mid-20th century. So in 2006, she and other members of the neighborhood association worked with then-City Councilman Donavan Wheatfall to create the Stop Six historic district, writing a nine-page document outlining the design guidelines for new developments in the area. The district was approved by the City Council and adopted in 2007.

Nine years later, Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, whose district includes Stop Six, said that not much development has come to the area since the creation of the district, and that developers are discouraged from working in Stop Six because historic guidelines put restrictions on what they can do.

“When I talk to developers, they tell me that we don’t mind developing in this community, but with these restrictions, plus the lack of good school performance, it just makes it not so worthwhile,” she said.

In hopes of attracting more development, the city is considering a restructure of the district’s boundaries. The Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission met March 14 to discuss possible changes. Some options are to redraw the boundary altogether, reduce the boundary or create smaller individual boundaries to create a “discontiguous” district, said Liz Casso, the city’s historic preservation officer.

But Blair said she doesn’t support the idea of restructuring the historic district, and she said neither the neighborhood association nor the other residents were informed of the proposed changes.

“Even to start a discussion about changing the historic district should’ve started with the constituents and not with the public setting,” she said.

But Bivens said she didn’t reach out to the neighborhood association initially because she wanted to gather information about the district first.

“It’s never been my practice, and I don’t think any of my peers, to go into a neighborhood not knowing what the facts are,” she said. “You can create all types of rumors and concern and fright.”

Developing in the district

Historic Stop Six: Sunrise Edition is a 392-acre district roughly bounded by Ramey Avenue on the north, Stalcup Road on the east, Berry Street on the south and Langston Street on the west. Currently, any new development in the district must follow a set of written guidelines that govern design elements such as building materials, signage and landscaping. The Landmarks Commission is responsible for reviewing development plans and granting developers approval for new projects.

Casso said most of the development cases she’s seen are demolition requests. Other cases involve builders who start work on an existing structure not knowing it is in a historic district and have to get city approval after construction has started.

Some developers shy away from working in areas with historic districts due to the guidelines, Casso said.

She said it has been a while since a developer reached out to her with interest in the area, so she doesn’t recall names of specific developers who stepped away from Stop Six due to the historic guidelines.

But she said it’s happened before.

“From my experience working with Stop Six over the many years, unfortunately I’ve seen people walk away from doing new construction projects in this neighborhood,” she said.

Finding developers who respect historic guidelines isn’t easy, said Stacy Marshall, executive director of Southeast Fort Worth Inc., a nonprofit economic development group that works to bring developers to the area.

“The challenge is trying to find the right developer that understands historic districts and bringing that right opportunity there,” he said. “When you meet with a lot of different developers, they think one size fits all. That’s not the case when you’re dealing with a historic district.”

Casso said Stop Six’s historic district has had a different effect on the area than other districts she’s worked with.

“Most historic districts see an increase in property values. Over time, you see a pick-up in properties getting rehabbed and infill going in,” she said. “It’s like a domino effect. All of a sudden it just starts to really take off. I see this trend in almost all of the districts that I’ve worked with, but Stop Six has not seen it.”

Blair said the district has had successful development because of the historic guidelines. A house at the 2400 block of Village Creek Road, for example, used to be in “really bad shape” until it was restored according to historic district guidelines, she said.

“It may not be like a wild or spectacular success, in the success of others,” she said. “But it’s a wild, spectacular success in our eyes.”

And the guidelines are “flexible,” she said. One house on Pinson Street was built about five years ago according to design guidelines, with an exception made to allow the house to have a brick exterior.

“Development can occur,” she said. “There’s nothing keeping developers from coming in and building. There is nothing keeping them. We have design guidelines that are very simple. All we ask is that you respect the architecture.”

Creating the district

The process of creating the historic district began in 2006. Before the City Council approved the district in 2007, Bivens said, the district faced much opposition from property owners.

Before the district was created, the city petitioned property owners, asking them to sign either for or against the historic district. According to Casso, 146 property owners signed to support the district, while 832 property owners signed to oppose it.

But Blair said she doesn’t remember opposition being as strong.

“It was weak,” she said. “It didn’t provide a reason as to why we should not become a historic district. Whoever the people were that were in opposition, they did not come forward or make their voice known.”

Blair said she had difficulty petitioning the property owners to create the district because much of the property is rental, and many people who own property in Stop Six don’t live there. So she asked Wheatfall to initiate the creation of the district.

“We needed to maintain, or to get some type of order, in our neighborhood,” Blair said. “That’s the reason. We had a vision. We came forward and created a comprehensive vision for our community because no one else was doing it.”

However, not everyone is on board with Blair and the proponents of the historic district, said Stop Six resident James Jaubert.

He said the neighborhood association that Blair leads doesn’t “represent the neighborhood.”

Still, the historic district may look different from the one originally adopted in 2007.

Restructuring the district

Part of the reason for restructuring the district is that much of the land is vacant, Bivens said.

According to Casso, who surveyed the area’s historic properties in October, about 32 percent of the buildings in the district are considered “contributing historic structures” – that is, structures built in the early to mid-20th century that had not undergone any significant alterations. Thus, 68 percent of the area is either non-contributing structures or vacant land.

Not only that, Casso said many of the remaining historic structures don’t follow a uniform design. Some follow the “ranch-style” designs of the 1950s and 1960s, some are in the “minimal traditional” style of the 1930s and others follow various architectural designs from different decades.

“It’s just a hodge podge,” Bivens said.

Bivens, who has long called for redevelopment in Stop Six, said the goal is to have lighter restrictions that will encourage developers to work in the district. For the structures that fall outside the historic boundary, Bivens hopes those property owners will apply for historic designations individually.

“We want to make sure that people who appreciate that designation will have that opportunity to be designated,” she said. “But the other people who have been burdened by this will be able to be free and develop.”

_________

Finding the original Stop Six

The Stop Six area was originally called Cowanville, but it became known as “Stop Six” because it was the sixth stop of the interurban train line that ran between Fort Worth and Dallas from 1902 until 1934.

Regina Blair, president of the Stop Six Sunrise Edition Neighborhood Association, said that according to “oral history” from past residents, the stop was located on Lancaster Avenue, close to the Handley neighborhood northeast of Stop Six.

But according to the city’s historic preservation officer, Liz Casso, the exact location of the sixth stop has not been identified.

City Councilwoman Gyna Bivens said she grew up in Stop Six and has spent most of her adult life there – she currently lives at Ramey Place in Stop Six – but no one has come forward with the location of the sixth stop.

Bivens said the city will work to find the exact location so a historical marker can be placed at the site.

“I’m 61 years old,” she said. “I grew up there. I think, number one, we need to know where the sixth stop was.”

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