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Fort Worth hopes to make 'urban villages' a reality

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX – Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 Reporter: Fort Worth has always been known as "Cowtown" - "where the West begins." But with most of Dallas County developed, land-rich Tarrant County is experiencing a boom. To keep up with the growth, Fort Worth has targeted 10 "urban villages" along historic roads that led to Fort Worth's streetcar suburbs a century ago. Community Development Manager Chris Maguire:

Chris Maguire, Community Development Manager, City of Fort Worth: These areas are pedestrian-oriented, higher-density clusters where people work, live. They're really vibrant senses of place.

Cuellar: During the next five years, five areas with two villages each will be developed. They are spread across the central city along East Lancaster, East Rosedale, West 7th, Hemphill, and Camp Bowie. Coincidentally, many developers for these projects are Dallas-based, including Ken Hughes, who planned Dallas' Mockingbird Station, and Jason Runnels, who developed Dallas' West Village and Fort Worth's Firestone Building.

Reid Rector, Assistant City Manager of Economic Development, City of Fort Worth: I would say we haven't brought them in.

Cuellar: Fort Worth's assistant city manager of Economic Development, Reid Rector.

Rector: They've simply been attracted to Fort Worth and the opportunities that exist here.

Cuellar: Jason Runnels says he was drawn by the city's commitment to what he calls its "inner core."

Jason Runnels, Developer: They understand the need to have housing in and around downtown. They've made such a huge investment in their downtown through Sundance Square in order for that to be kind of a vibrant, 24-hour city, they need more residents down there, so they encourage development.

Cuellar: Ken Hughes says that puts the focus on neighborhoods.

Ken Hughes, Developer: In their mind as they thought through this village idea, they intentionally created nodes of density rather than allowing for the kind of generalized density that tends to define Dallas; helps us identify who the customer might be, the kind of housing and shopping and so forth that we will be building, and that's not quite as easy a thing to do in Dallas, where the borders get fuzzy and you have a lot of competing zoning.

Cuellar: But as Fort Worth grows, City Hall, residents, and developers like Hughes want to preserve the city's charm and quality of life.

Hughes: Hopefully for people that live in Fort Worth they won't have the development process just literally plow through the city. That they'll be some constraints that will require better development, but not to the extent that it will discourage responsible development.

Runnels: We see it's similar, years behind where Dallas is, but it's heading that direction.

Cuellar: Again, Jason Runnels:

Runnels: If you imagine that strip between Sundance and the cultural district being 7th Street, we kind of see that the way Cedar Springs used to be in Dallas, back when you had downtown and the Park Cities.

Cuellar: But Fort Worth isn't just looking at its closest neighbor, according to Rector.

Rector: I don't think we looked at Dallas and said boy, they really screwed that up; we don't want to do that way or they really did this right. We may have looked at Dallas and we may have looked at a number of other communities to see what they're doing.

Cuellar: Even as it cultivates a more "urban" feel, the villages are designed to preserve Fort Worth's distinct identity from Dallas, despite projected growth. For KERA 90.1, I'm Catherine Cuellar.


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