Scenic Bluff: Belknap-area development would bring residential development, improvements

By April 13, 2015Uncategorized

From Fort Worth Business Press by Scott Nishimura

The proposed redevelopment of an 18-acre site overlooking Fort Worth’s Scenic Bluff into a 400-unit multifamily village has moved to the next step, winning Zoning Commission approval. Zoning commissioners voted April 8 to move the case to the City Council, which will consider it April 14. Developer Pretlow Riddick agreed to restrictions in the area of the development closest to the Charleston gated community, where a number of homeowners are opposed to the rezoning, to no more than two stories and eight units per building. Riddick’s case is enjoying significant support from residents in the broad Riverside area, although many are ambivalent about the large number of apartments now coming off the drawing board. The steepest opposition has come from the neighboring Charleston gated community, where a significant number of homeowners are worried about burgeoning multifamily next to their neighborhood.

“We really have received wide support from the community, and I’m glad the (zoning commission) result reflected that,” Riddick, of Criterion Development in Dallas, said in an interview. On the upcoming City Council vote, “we’re got wide support, so I think that’ll come through to the council,” said Riddick, who held several meetings with residents to recruit support. Riddick filed the zoning case with the city on the Parkview Village Apartments, a modest, recently shuttered, 65-year-old duplex development he bought last year and plans to bulldoze. The property is bounded by Oakhurst Scenic Drive’s bluff on the west, Dalford Street and the Charleston community on the north, the Scenic Bluff neighborhood on the east, and McLemore Street on the south. It is near the city’s Six Points Urban Village, the triangle formed by Sylvania Avenue and Race and Belknap streets.

Riddick also has been buying property in and around the nearby Race Street commercial district, and he views an increased residential base as increased support for Race Street. The Riverside area, appealing for its old, stable neighborhoods, walkability, and access to downtown, highways, and parks and the Trinity Trail, has struggled to draw restaurants and stores. If he obtains City Council approval, Riddick next plans to move to replatting, where he told zoning commissioners he intends to resolve disagreement with surrounding residents about circulation through the north portion of the development. Criterion plans two or three phases, with the first phase of about 250 units by year-end starting on the southern portion of the site, Riddick said.

“Our goal would be to start construction by year-end,” he said. Zoning Commissioner Gaye Reed, whose district includes the Scenic Bluff area, made the motion to approve the zoning case, acknowledging “there are still a lot of changes (that will happen) between now and when this gets approved.” The commission held the case up at its March hearing. “I think we need to move this along,” Reed said during Wednesday’s meeting. “We’ve got to get to the next step.”

Wendy Vann Roach, a Charleston resident and the community’s developer, spoke against the case at the April 8 hearing. She has said it’s inappropriate to put multifamily so close to a high-end neighborhood and said Riddick should be required to use a diversity of housing styles. Riddick has spoken of his residential plan to residents in terms of apartments, using the word town home when speaking about the north sector closest to Charleston, she said. “I don’t see why it needs to be apartments other than Pretlow is an apartment builder,” Roach said in an interview. The urban residential zoning Criterion won allows for four different residential styles, but doesn’t mandate use of all or any combinations. The zoning allows heights of up to three stories, with no cap on density, so long as the developer provides one parking space per bedroom. The zoning commission also awarded Riddick the waiver he sought from having to file a site plan, in which he would have had to commit to uses. Criterion’s plan calls for “three or four different (residential) styles,” Riddick said in the interview, mentioning town homes, manor-style houses, and multifamily buildings.

“It’s really a pretty low-density development,” Riddick said. The Scenic Bluff Neighborhood Association, which borders the site to the east, supported Riddick’s zoning petition, pointing out that Riddick owns other property in the area and has invested in the neighborhood and communicated with residents. “We felt really good about him, and we felt this was the best use of that property right now,” Belinda Norris, president of the neighborhood association, said in an interview. Residents in the Oakhurst neighborhood were split, Kathryn Omarkhail, president of the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association, said in an interview. Younger residents in their early 30s and younger largely supported Riddick, while residents older than 45 were much more ambivalent, Omarkhail said. Riddick courted the younger set, including a meeting at the Fuzzy’s Taco Shop on Race Street, she said. “The young crowd liked him a lot,” Omarkhail said. The older residents “didn’t want it, or they wanted it (but) were cautious.” Riddick’s is the latest announced major development in the Riverside area. Last year, another group won zoning approval for a mixed-use residential and commercial development at Belknap Street and Oakhurst Scenic Drive.

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