Fort Worth’s Stockyards is the top tourist destination in the Metroplex.
Drawn by the cobblestone streets, Western retail stores and cattle drives, about 3 million tourists from around the world flock to the historic district annually, bringing with them millions of dollars in sales tax revenue.
To encourage that, city staff is requesting a zoning change that will limit certain corridors around the Stockyards from having multifamily developments. Instead, they want to prioritize commercial development to encourage job creation, tourism and entertainment.
The rezoning, if approved, will no longer permit multifamily developments east of North Main Street, between 28th Street, Stockyards Boulevard, and Exchange Avenue.
“The change is about a greater balance between commercial and residential uses in the Stockyards,” said D.J. Harrell, director of development services for the city of Fort Worth. “Traditionally, there have been commercial corridors reserved for commercial uses from within the Stockyards. The issue now is, how much do we want to preserve from residential encroachment?”
The proposal will be presented to the zoning commission a second time Nov. 9 after a 30-day continuance was granted by the commission.
Next public hearing
Residents may tune in to the next zoning commission meeting starting at 1 p.m. Nov. 9 in the City Hall council chambers. More information can be found on the city’s website.
For Natividad Rios, president of Rios Interiors, a rustic furniture store on North Main Street, the zoning request from the city is a welcomed proposal. The 55-year-old businessman has been in the Stockyards for the past 15 years.
About 80% of his clientele is from out-of-state, Rios said.
“People who live around the Stockyards are not necessarily the Stockyards clientele,” Rios said. “The clientele is people who come for the horse shows, for different conventions and everything.”
Rios pointed to the recent opening of Hotel Drover in the Stockyards by California-based Majestic Realty as an example of the increasing commercial activity around the historic district benefiting visitors and business owners.
“If more businesses, more commercial things happen, it will be good for everybody,” he said. “Of course, it will have its pros and cons for those who don’t want to change. But change is inevitable. And I think the commercial expansion of the Stockyards will be beneficial. They say the more the merrier.”
Majestic Realty representatives were unavailable for comment by publication deadline.
The city currently allows for both residential and commercial development to be proposed around the historic district. But, the majority of the projects submitted recently to the city have been residential, said Daniel Leal, assistant director of development services for the city of Fort Worth.
“All these codes are generally more interested in the shape of the city you get at the end of the day, rather than the uses,” Leal said. “Right now, you can have… any combination. But by allowing that type of flexibility, we are getting only 100% residential development, and that was the concern.”
Leal said the development department cannot give priority to commercial proposals versus residential proposals. They can only check whether a building is allowed within an area based on the zoning codes.
“It would be out of (staff’s) authority to influence development in any way among uses that are currently allowed by the (Stockyards’ zoning),” Leal said. “On the other hand, what staff can do, and is a professional obligation for us to do, is to ensure that the form-based code stays relevant and reflective of the needs and aspirations of the community.”
Two major multifamily development projects proposed in the Stockyards in the last two years – Swifts Lots from Majestic Realty and a project from San Antonio-based Kairoi Residential at the site of the former Armour & Co. Packing Plant – could add between 1,050 to 1,200 apartment units.
Following the announcement that the zoning near the Stockyards may change, Kairoi is reportedly trying to move up the groundbreaking before the request is approved, according to the Dallas Business Journal.
Kairoi did not respond to a request for comment.
With this potential zoning change, the city will be able to collect revenue from commercial property taxes as well as sales taxes, rather than just residential property taxes. According to the latest sales tax report presented to City Council on Nov. 1, the city generated $18.8 million in sales tax revenue for August 2022 — a 21.2% increase from August 2021 and a 14.7% increase from July 2022.
Sales tax revenue is the city’s second-largest revenue source after property taxes.
By switching to commercial zoning, the city will be able to generate revenue from two sources rather than just one, Leal said.
From January 2022 to September 2022, the Stockyards’ Public Improvement District generated $1.1 million in sales tax – an average of $7,000 per acre, according to the city’s economic development department.
Harrell said adding more commercial development around the Stockyards will boost the city’s tourism industry and create jobs.
“I’m thinking of the tourism dollars, and it will add jobs that will be created from commercial uses and entertainment uses,” Harrell said. “Those jobs are an addition to our community that you don’t get with 100% residential.”
At this time, the city has not done any analysis on the economic impact this proposed zoning change will have, according to the city’s Economic Development Director Robert Sturns.
“It’s difficult to say without knowledge of the types or sizes of businesses that will be going into the area,” he said in an email.
Some business owners said they don’t mind the new proposal as long as the businesses that would come in after the zoning change reflect the spirit of the historic district and continue to promote the area.
“I have no problem with any business who is going to come in and help the Stockyards, and I’m all for it,” said Mike Luskey, 67, store manager at Cavender’s in the Stockyards, who also owns the property. “That helps the Stockyards if it increases the value of my piece of property here.”
The proposed zoning change could be one of several citywide initiatives to improve the Stockyards. In October, the city began a mobility study of the district to address transportation safety and congestion issues. The study is expected to be completed in May 2023.
If the proposal is recommended and eventually approved by City Council, Rios said he hopes the family business approach of the Stockyards will remain for future generations to enjoy.
“What makes the Stockyards unique? There are no big commercial chains, and we are trying to avoid that. It’s mostly family-oriented businesses,” he said. “It’s a very unique venue. And that’s what makes it so interesting.”
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter at @ssadek19.
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