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Developers work to revitalize north Fort Worth area
BY JOHN-LAURENT TRONCHE
October 29, 2007
A long-forgotten area of Fort Worth is beginning to look a lot like Austin’s South Congress Avenue, Miami’s Ocean Drive and maybe even Cowtown’s West Seventh Street of 10 years ago all rolled into one street.
The Six Points/Race Street area, located about two miles from downtown just east of Interstate 35, benefits from a handful of investors working to revitalize an area that was once a bustling neighborhood but had since fallen into disrepair.
“I think this is one of the invisible jewels of this town,” said Jyl DeHaven, principal of Green Urban Development, one of several companies that owns property along Race Street. “For the longest time, historically, I think the city honestly believed that the city limits of Fort Worth ended with Interstate 35.”
The triangle-shaped area, created by the intersections of Sylvania Avenue and Race and East Belknap streets, is the site of a massive undertaking: dozens of new businesses, the rehabilitation of existing buildings and construction of new, multi-story and mixed-use office buildings.
Within the past year alone, three restaurants, an art gallery, a barber shop and several more business have opened in the area. Justin McWilliams, president of Race Street Properties, said all the action in the past few years likely will double in the 52 weeks to come as he works to entice more businesses, including a gelato shop, gym, bakery and vintage clothes store.
Paul Willis, the brain behind both restaurant success (Fuzzy’s Taco Shop) and failure (Pedro’s Trailer Park) in Fort Worth, is working alongside McWilliams to create two restaurant concepts: Havana Social Club and Buffalo Gap Steakhouse. The former is a Latin tapas and tequila bar built within a post office-cum-defunct biker bar; across the street sits a vacant green building and lot that will house Willis’ steakhouse.
An existing apartment complex will be reconfigured into The Grove, a 92-room boutique-hotel modeled after Hotel San José, an Austin motor court turned chic, bungalow-style hang-out. The area’s first nighttime-entertainment venue, Dino’s Sports Bar and Grill, will open in the next three weeks, McWilliams said, providing one more reason for residents to explore Six Points.
On the opposite side of the south side of the street, DeHaven and company expect to begin construction within 90 days on a 4.5 acre-site that will include about 150,000 square feet of buildings old and new – all incorporating sustainable design, or “green,” concepts – for office and retail. Lofts will be available in about a month for pre-sale at a cost of less than $100,000 and the entire project should be completed in two years.
“It’s amazing how much more traffic goes up and down this street than a year ago,” DeHaven said. “I’ve seen a lot more people over here kicking tires. You can almost spot developers.”
Much of the area’s character can be attributed to an aversion of larger, national chains, said Trent Gilley, a broker with Bradford Commercial Real Estate Services.
“People have had so much big-box retail, they’re tired of eating at Chili’s,” said Gilley, who is marketing the area to potential tenants. “Just give them something unique … we don’t want Starbucks, we want Eurotazza.”
Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, the first restaurant to take the bite in the area when it opened in January, is doing well, though not extremely well, said owner Chuck Bush, but added business is “definitely progressing and growing by the day.”
Although the re-emergence of Six Points seems quick to the naked eye, McWilliams stressed the time it has taken for everything to come together.
“People don’t realize it takes almost six months to a year by the time you get through the design phase, all the way through the city to get permits, to get everything else when you’re starting from scratch,” McWilliams said.
The area’s gradual transformation was sparked in large part by McWilliams, who purchased 50,000 square feet of vacant space from medical-technology company Medtronic in 2000.
“I’d like to tell everybody I had a great vision,” McWilliams said with a laugh, “but it was cheap.”
District 2 City Council Member Sal Espino, who moved his office to Race Street two years ago, has overseen the area’s transformation from a nearly vacant industrial area to a burgeoning urban village and believes others will follow suit.
“I think the rest of Fort Worth is finding out about the area,” Espino said. “A lot of times people weren’t looking at it as an investment opportunity.”
The Six Points area was recently designated one of the city’s 16 “urban villages,” Espino said, qualifying it for city-allocated, state funds for infrastructure improvements and beautification, part of the Fort Worth’s ongoing plan to re-invest in down-on-their-luck neighborhoods.
Contact Tronche at firstname.lastname@example.org