UPDATE: Fort Worth Council takes another step in Stockyards historic district plan

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The Fort Worth City Council moved forward Tuesday night with plans for a process to redevelop a historic area that includes a part of the Fort Worth Stockyards, but not without some controversy.

The historic district is located in the center of the Stockyards, running along Exchange Avenue on both sides of Main Street and including much of the old meatpacking plants (see map). Creating the historic district is the first step in creating a form-based code district for the area that has proven a draw for tourists and residents alike.

Several members of Historic Fort Worth and others interested in historic preservation praised the council, but also requested that the historic district be enlarged.

While they wanted the district enlarged, others were asking their property be removed from the district. Among those were some of the owners of the building that houses Billy Bob’s Texas, one of the main draws for the area, the Stockyards 2000 group. A member of Stockyards 2000 sent a letter to the council asking the building be removed from the historic district, saying that being in the district could impede changes that might be made to the building.

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However, several speakers said Billy Bob’s should be included in the process. The owners of the Billy Bob’s business made no public comment on being included or removed from the historic district. Other property and business owners in the area have made the same argument about their businesses in the area. 

In June 2014, the council approved an economic incentive plan for a $175 million redevelopment of several properties owned by the Hickman family. The Hickman family partnered with Majestic Realty to redevelop part of the Stockyards Station, the mule barns and other properties. A redevelopment project on the mule barns is slated to begin early next year.

The Majestic-Hickman project prompted the City Council to make zoning changes within the Stockyards and create a design overlay district that would cover not only the Majestic-Hickman project but also the surrounding areas of the Stockyards. The Historic Stockyards Design District Task Force was in charge of drafting a document that would outline the design guidelines for the design overlay district. The task force approved a final draft of that document in September.

The Majestic-Hickman group recently said it would spend $40 million to preserve the historic mule barns located along Exchange Street.

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Several speakers at the council meeting were also concerned about demolition permits issued to Majestic Realty for several structures in the former Swift & Co. property.

But Kerby Smith, senior vice president of Majestic Realty said “time and weather and neglect have caused a significant deterioration and disrepair to many of the structures owned by [the Majestic-Hickman partnership.]”

Ann Zadeh, who represents District 9 on the city’s southside, put forward a substitute motion that would expand the historic district, but didn’t find any support for her motion.

The council then approved the historic district boundary, but council and city officials noted that this process was just beginning.

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“This is not the end of the public process, it still continues,” said District 2 Councilman Sal Espino. “There will be meetings with stakeholders in December. There will be public hearings.”

The plans will also be heard in public hearings by the Historic and Cultural Landmark Commission in January and the Zoning Commission after that. The council will take a final vote on the plan in March.

“The Fort Worth Stockyards are Fort Worth and Fort Worth is the Stockyards,” said Espino.

This story was updated to correct information about the letter on Billy  Bob’s. 

Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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