Developers will soon submit initial plans for the redesigned Evans and Rosedale project to the city. However, some residents are still left with questions despite a years-long public engagement process.
In its annual progress report to residents of the Historic Southside, developer Hoque Global shared updated site plans, the results of a traffic study, and updates to landscaping and design based on neighborhood input.
The room was filled on Jan. 19 with residents looking to learn more about the $70 million urban village that they’ve been told will be a catalyst for growth and opportunities in their neighborhood.
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.
City of Fort Worth and Hoque Global staff were also on hand to present project updates and field questions from residents.
The question of attracting a grocery store to the development has proved especially difficult for developers, city staff and elected officials. Getting a grocery store into the neighborhood is a top priority, residents said. Southeast Fort Worth is home to multiple food deserts. The nearest major grocery store to the Historic Southside is a Walmart over three miles away.
City officials have been promising a grocery store to the neighborhood for 20 years, but have never delivered, said Wallace Bridges, a meeting attendee who also serves as a trustee on the Fort Worth ISD school board.
“What has a city, or whoever, done in terms of trying to entice, draw, get or whatever we have to do to get an actual grocery store?” Bridges asked. “Where are we at with that process? And what are the challenges that keep it from happening?”
Developers and city staff said attracting a grocer to the area is dependent on the project finally breaking ground — that can’t happen until the developers submit the permits to the city and get them approved.
“They’re going to want to see what the residential development around it is, what the income levels are, so we’ve got to get the residential in place to allow us to continue to attract development,” said Robert Sturns, Fort Worth’s economic development director.
The traffic study found that the new development will not significantly alter road capacity, Arthur Santa-Maria, vice president with Hoque Global, said. However, the roads around the area are already rated as struggling with long and even longer delays.
Residents fear that the residential and retail developments will push traffic into the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We want this to be a really walkable area, and by nature, you have to have slower traffic,” Santa-Maria said.
The development will include several live-work retail spaces. Residents expressed concern that those spaces could eventually only be occupied by businesses whose prices are out of step with the income levels of the surrounding neighborhood.
“When you go after the largest retailers and have all the big developments, it can sometimes overlook the smaller developments that are going to impact the people that live in the community and have the opportunity to benefit economically from the larger picture,” Edward Spears, pastor at Faith & Love Church of God in Christ, said.
Spears asked that residents be involved in recruiting the retailers that would occupy those spaces to ensure they are rooted in the community, and several other residents nodded along.
“There are a lot of business owners out there or potential business owners out there, we might need to know about,” Sturns said in response. “So if you are aware of people that are wanting to engage with this project, yeah, I think it makes sense to start those conversations.”
The city has also set aside about $7 million, spread across the city, for projects in areas targeted for revitalization such as Evans and Rosedale. The incentive, funded through the Fort Worth Local Development Corporation’s Supported Projects Policy, is meant to capture smaller scale projects that are not large enough for the city’s other incentive programs.
Santa-Maria also announced several changes to the project’s plan based on feedback from residents which included getting rid of gravel sidewalks residents said could impact accessibility and plans to integrate work from local artists into the cosmetic design of the development.
Depending on how quickly the city processes permitting for the Evans and Rosedale project, construction could begin in April, 2023 and be finished by 2025.
Evans Plaza is a prominent feature of the Historic Southside neighborhood. The green space will become about an acre of dedicated park under the city’s plans. That means the green-space will be preserved despite development growing around it.
The city has committed $1.2 million to the park’s development so far. The money will be used in acquiring land, federal environmental review, design and construction. Soon, the city will engage with the neighborhood to consult on the design of the park.
Residents attending the meeting cited pressing concerns about the safety and usability of the park. Currently several homeless people consistently occupy the park, residents said, discouraging residents from using the area for its intended purpose.
The city must have considerate and deliberate conversations about public safety to ensure that the area is attractive to visitors and shoppers, Sturns said.
“The last thing you want is, we go through all this effort, we create these homes, we attract grocery stores, but nobody wants to come here,” Sturns said.
The city expects that increased programming and use of the park will discourage homeless people from loitering there, Lori Gordon, with the city’s parks and recreation department, said. Residents were skeptical, adding that brighter lights and increased police patrols are a better way to address the issue.
Several historic plaques built into the current Evans Plaza need to be better preserved, Johnny Lewis, a member of the Historic Southside’s neighborhood association, said.
Construction of the park is expected to begin in June 2024 and end June 2025, developers said.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. 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.