Ivan Gutierrez wants the Historic Northside to be on the list of go-to places to check out in Fort Worth by the end of the Main Street America program, which aims to revitalize underserved areas.
The community wants to be involved in the process, too. That was evident to Gutierrez, who is the newly hired Main Street program coordinator at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, when nearly 100 people attended a recent kickoff event.
The Historic Northside and Polytechnic Heights were selected in April as part of the $650,000 Main Street America pilot program, funded by the Fort Worth Local Development Corporation. Now, leaders, such as Gutierrez, are figuring out how to bolster the community.
“(Community members) want to be able to be a part of the process continually as we move forward, rather than just, ‘Oh, we had a launch meeting now, we’ll see you again in a year,’” Gutierrez said.
Among Northside community members’ top issues are small business support, beautification and preservation, inclusivity and community outreach, lighting and safety, homelessness, parking and art installations, Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez, who started his position on Jan. 17, said more listening sessions are needed to inform the revitalization process. After hearing about concerns about displacement as a result of the program, he planned an anti-displacement seminar in March with Main Street America and the Small Business Anti-Displacement Network.
The revitalization efforts will focus on commercial parts of Main Street, starting at 1012 N. Main St. to 23rd Street and down Central Avenue.
One of the biggest projects is making the area more pleasing to the eye and more welcoming, such as adding more lighting, Gutierrez said.
Another effort is filling empty spaces with small businesses that fit the vision and culture of the area, Gutierrez said.
Fifteen properties are for lease or for sale in the area, with many more shut down and boarded up. Big corporations won’t necessarily fill the spaces, he said. He wants the spaces to reflect Hispanic culture and businesses could be anything from Hispanic snack and clothing stores to handmade jewelry.
“It is a very Hispanic area .. historically that’s what it’s been and that’s what we plan to keep it,” he said.
In order to attract those businesses, parking will be a priority.
If the project turns the area into a bustling district of its own, businesses will want to know where their customers can park, Anette Landeros, president of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said. The chamber is working with Trinity Metro to create a stop in the area.
“The stockyards have reinforced the fact that when you build something great, where’s everyone in the park to enjoy it?” Landeros said. “But we’re going to need it just to really support the businesses that we’re trying to attract to be here as well.”
The Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber also recently received a $25,000 Main Street America grant to make improvements to Mejorar Marine Park. The park used to be the site of concerts and annual Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis de Septiembre celebrations, Landeros said. The improvements will include painting the pavilion and planting flowers, three concerts between May and July, health and wellness days and public art.
“The programming that we’re focused on is really an ode to what used to happen in that park and the placemaking would be returning back, inviting the community to reinvigorate that park and start to utilize it again,” Landeros said.
Seth Bodine is a business and economic development reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com and follow on Twitter at @sbodine120.
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