Tuesday night the Fort Worth City Council moved forward 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 would run north to Stockyard Boulevard, Exchange Avenue on both sides of Main Street. 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 the owners of Billy Bob’s Texas honky-tonk, one of the main draws for the area, sent a letter to the council asking the building be removed from the historic district. Brad Hickman, one of the developers in the Majestic/Hickman, said in the letter that Billy Bob’s is considering expanding the nightclub’s performance space from one that can accommodate 1,900 audience members to one that holds 5,000.
However, several speakers said Billy Bob’s should be included in the process. In June 2014, the council approved an economic incentive plan for a $175 million redevelopment plan for 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 2016.
The Majestic-Hickman project prompted the City Council to make zoning changes within the Stockyards and also 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.
Several speakers at the council meeting were also concerned about demolition permits issued to Majestic Realty to 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.
“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.