A project bringing 24 two-story townhomes to the Hemphill corridor is moving ahead, but some neighbors say they weren’t told soon enough about the proposal.

The proposed project is on the northeast corner of Hemphill Street and West Morningside Drive. It is now a used car sales lot turned on-demand COVID-19 testing site. Hemphill is one of the city’s many areas designed for urban redevelopment

At its hearing Jan. 11, the Fort Worth zoning commission unanimously recommended approval of the project. City Council will consider the case at its Feb. 14 meeting. That meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 200 Texas St.

The developer, Fort Worth-based TownSite Company, described it as “another residential option at a lower price point than the larger rental projects in the area.”

Mary Nell Poole, one of the founders of TownSite Company, intends to provide updates to the Hemphill Corridor Development Collaborative as the project progresses, she said. Poole did not share the price point of these townhomes at the time of the hearing.

“I think to have housing along Hemphill where we have the church, we have some other retail things. It offers walkability to those and provides a different housing option,” Poole said. “These are for rent. They’re not for sale. And they’re two stories so they are keeping with the scale of history and they’re in keeping with the bungalow neighborhoods that are adjacent to the rear, and so it’s not going to over overcrowd the streets.”

Some Hemphill residents say they were not notified of this proposed project early enough to gather community input. 

Ricardo Avitia, with Hemphill No Se Vende, spoke in opposition to the project on Hemphill. Avitia expressed concern that the developer did not properly notify residents about the proposal. 

Avitia found out about the case by looking at the zoning agenda, he said. There’s no information about the case anywhere else. 

“Communication is key, especially in this day where everything has gone pretty much online,” he said. “We still have residents of Fort Worth who are not up to speed on how to use the internet or computer even for that matter.”

City ordinance states that public hearing notices must be sent at least 10 days in advance. They can be either written or posted. The ordinance also mentions that the city is responsible for these notifications. 

Poole said she reached out to the Hemphill Corridor Development Collaborative during the holidays but did not hear back. Poole told the Fort Worth Report she would be happy to meet with the collaborative before the February City Council meeting. 

Fernando Peralta, president of the Hemphill Corridor Development Collaborative, said the organization did not receive any information about the project from the developer until a week before the zoning hearing. 

Peralta was disappointed with the zoning commission’s decision to move forward with the project, despite the Hemphill Corridor Development Collaborative not being able to discuss it and members of the community expressing concern about not being notified, he said. 

For him, due diligence is more than just checking boxes for an application. 

“We’re trying to make sure all of our communities have voices at the table,” Peralta said. “We’re not on the developer’s timeline. We’re on the community’s timeline.”

The Hemphill Corridor Development Collaborative will meet at 5 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Victory Forest Community Center, 3427 Hemphill St., to further discuss this case, Peralta said. 

Council member Elizabeth Beck told the Report she is considering continuing the case for 30 days at the next City Council meeting to make sure residents have the time to learn about the case before the final vote. 

“I don’t want to presume I know what the outcome of that (Jan. 26 meeting) is. We could find ourselves in a situation where we can take a vote on (Feb.) 14,” Beck said. “But right now, as it stands without knowing any of that, I think it’s safe to say that I’ll move for a 30-day extension if after that meeting, it feels like we need to have some additional community dialogue.”

Residents from Hemphill have spoken in the past against housing developments they fear will gentrify their community. In other cases, projects were dropped without community input

Avitia said this is not the first time residents found out about a project late in the process. 

“The manner in which this zoning came about is a continuance of the lack of respect for the working-class residents of South and South Central Fort Worth,” Avitia said. 

TownSite Company has worked on several other projects in Fort Worth, including the conversion of a Paschal-area church into apartments in 2019. Residents raised some concerns at the time about traffic congestion. Townsite Company has also built other multifamily projects in neighborhoods like Como and downtown. 

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 SadekBusiness Reporter

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. Originally from Houston, she graduated from Texas State University where she studied journalism and international...