When community members, businesses and government officials met almost 23 years ago to discuss the future of the Evans and Rosedale Business and Cultural District, they envisioned turning the historic African-American neighborhood into a gateway that could start to repair years of disinvestment. 

Their goal? Redevelopment focused on economic growth, historic and cultural preservation and modern urban design. And, at the heart of it all, a master-planned urban village.

That urban village plan, awarded to Dallas-based Hoque Global in 2019, is expected to break ground in March or April after the developer closes on the property in December, city staff reports indicate. 

What is an urban village?

Urban villages are walkable, bicycle-friendly, transit-oriented, mixed-used neighborhoods that offer housing and job opportunities. They are often characterized by multifamily housing, commercial space and public amenities like parks, and open spaces. 

The project will result in a total of at least $70 million worth of investment, according to city documents. 

“We very much hope and expect for our development to be a catalyst for more growth and opportunities in southeast Fort Worth,” said Arthur Santa-Maria, vice president at Hoque Global. 

Black Renaissance

For more than 20 years, the city of Fort Worth has tried to find ways to help the Evans and Rosedale area gain back its prominence as a historic, cultural and economic hub — both locally and regionally. 

Starting in the summer of 2000, government officials held several workshops and discussions about the vision for Evans and Rosedale. The city invested at least $2 million in streetscape improvements. The Shamblee Library opened in 2008. 

Several developers tried to bring proposals for an urban village to the community in response to the vision plan. Delayed timelines and unfulfilled promises left residents and officials frustrated. 

“I don’t think there are very many good reasons to explain the slowness of progress beyond the fact that the area south of I-30, and east of I-35 has suffered from the perception that the market for this kind of development is weak,” said Fernando Costa, assistant city manager.

The community’s hope for the project had diminished over the years, but the 2019 announcement of Hoque Global as the primary developer for this urban village has led to a resurgence of energy and momentum toward making the vision a reality, said Stacy Marshall, president of Southeast Fort Worth Inc. 

Hoque Global was selected out of eight applicants. 

“There is the potential for the African-American Renaissance to come back. Is it the start? Yes, it is,” Marshall said. “But it has to be a buy-in not just from the community within the Historic Southside… People are going to want to have to come back to the area to live, work, shop, play.”

Hoque Global’s project will start with 292 multifamily units and 28 live-work units, with at least 20% of the total number of units being affordable. Phase two will have 20 townhomes, of which 20% will also be affordable. 

There will also be parks and other public spaces for residents and visitors. There may even be potential for a future grocery store, Santa-Maria said. 

The development company held meetings with community members in conjunction with the city to determine how to bring development to the southside that builds on the significant historical assets already there. 

Between April and June 2019, Hoque Global participated in a community input meeting, a community walking tour and a community workshop. It also held multiple smaller meetings with neighborhood groups and residents. A follow-up community meeting took place once Hoque was chosen as the master developer. 

After the pandemic resulted in several delays, another large community meeting was held in September 2021 to show the final conceptual renderings of the proposed project and get the community’s input before seeking council approval.

James Walker, president of the Historic Southside Neighborhood Association, has been involved with the project since 2019. He had no reservations about the proposal, noting that keeping the community’s Black history alive is an important component. 

“If you go and take a look on Evans Street, you’ll see where a lot of prominent Black people used to reside, so we want the project to be somewhat of a reflection of that, to the best of their ability,” he said.

Since the project’s approval, Hoque Global and the city have been meeting monthly with the Historic Southside’s Neighborhood Association or its economic development task force. Matt Houston, CEO of Collaborative Culture LLC, was hired as a community relations consultant to help lead these conversations since the start. 

“One thing that the community would like us to do is have continuity in terms of our development, to ensure that we’re preserving the work that (the community and city) have done,” Houston said. “Most important is to preserve the cultural landmarks of the plot that the Evans Plaza development was created on.”

Economic development has taken place in and around the Evans and Rosedale area. The Near Southside/Medical District has received great interest and investment from developers over the years, turning it into a successful business corridor. 

And in the historic Southside, the former Guinn School, at the corner of Rosedale and I-35 was renovated to house the Business Assistance Center. Farther down the road, Omni America converted an old drive-in restaurant into Southside Bank, a federal credit union. 

But on the other side of I-35, progress has yet to happen despite past efforts. 

“The factual data will demonstrate that a good market does exist to support the economic development, but the psychological barrier associated with I-35 has inhibited activity east of the freeway,” Costa said. 

This project represents the first time that this level of private investment and infrastructure improvements have come together in this area, the city’s economic development department said in a statement. 

As the first major private investment project on Rosedale and Evans since 2000, Hoque Global’s urban village plan will be supported by the planned construction of the National Juneteenth Museum, a $70 million project projected to be completed in 2025. 

“Years of planning, infrastructure, and investment made by the city, TxDOT, Texas Wesleyan, and grant funding have laid the foundation for this Rosedale Renaissance — and the hope is that more private investments will follow,” the city’s economic development department said in a statement. 

Economic upturn

Funding for the urban village is partially supported by local and federal dollars approved by the city of Fort Worth. 

City Council allocated up to $4.25 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds on Oct. 19, 2021. Hoque Global also received a 15-year Chapter 380 Economic Development Program grant totaling up to $9 million from the city. This grant allows Fort Worth City Council to establish and administer programs, like business loans, public money or support in the form of city services and personnel, that promote economic development.

The Southside/Medical District Tax Increment Financing district also committed an additional $7 million for the redevelopment of Evans and Rosedale, for the completion of the parking garage and enhancements to the cultural square, linear parks, interactive square, and other public spaces. 

In April 2022, the city entered into multiple agreements with Hoque Global for the project. Council memos show that the property purchase for the first phase must be completed by Dec. 14 with the option of two, 90-day extensions. The next deadline for the property sale to be completed is Dec. 31, 2023. 

Hoque Global has also committed to employ or help create at least 30 full-time employees on the property by Dec. 31, 2024, with an emphasis on hiring from the neighborhood, economic development documents show. 

With the first land sale deadline quickly approaching, Hoque Global is meeting weekly with the city and working on getting the appropriate permits to start construction, the company’s vice president Santa-Maria said. 

Until the doors to Hoque Global’s project open, all eyes remain on the development as community members and those invested in the Historic Southside wait to see Evans and Rosedale return to its former glory. 

For Southeast Fort Worth Inc.’s Marshall, it’s about accountability to the residents of the community who have waited for such a project for years and are anxious for the area to return to its heyday. 

“If we can get some semblance of what that area was back in the day, meaning bringing back the mom-and-pop shops, the restaurants, the housing piece — getting people to come back,” he said. “It won’t be a 100% African American community because the demographics in the city have changed. But if we can bring back what was there in terms of structure, then we’re satisfied.” 

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at sandra.sadek@fortworthreport.org or follow her on Twitter at @ssadek19. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Sandra Sadek is the growth reporter for the Fort Worth Report and a Report for America corps member. She writes about Fort Worth's affordable housing crisis, infrastructure and development. Originally...