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'Our neighborhoods are our lifeblood.' Fort Worth to bolster Poly, Northside with national program

North Main Street has a wealth of restaurants but many empty storefronts, said Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Anette Landeros. This dilapidated building is advertising a new coffee and wine bar set to fill the space.
Miranda Suarez
North Main Street has a wealth of restaurants but many empty storefronts, said Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Anette Landeros. This dilapidated building is advertising a new coffee and wine bar set to fill the space.

Fort Worth has joined a national effort to bring historic commercial areas back to life.

The city has selected the Historic Northside and Polytechnic neighborhoods for a new three-year pilot program with Main Street America, a national initiative focused on revitalizing old commercial areas with their history in mind.

"Our neighborhoods are our lifeblood. That’s where people live, that's where they breathe, that's where their community is,” said Martha Collins, revitalization coordinator for Fort Worth’s Economic Development Department.

“Especially after COVID and things like that, we realize more than ever how important it is to get people out and supporting the local economy and supporting each other," Collins said.

The Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will lead the Northside program, and Southeast Fort Worth Inc., with support from Texas Wesleyan University, will lead the Poly program. They’ll get up to $270,000 in grants over three years, training from Main Street America in fundraising and transformation strategies, and access to a national network of more than 1,200 Main Street participants across the country.

The program boasts billions of dollars in reinvestment in participating communities since it began in 1980. Participants across the country have used Main Street America’s framework to create comprehensive plans for their neighborhoods, clean and beautify them, preserve historic buildings, and advocate for their neighborhoods with city government.

Fort Worth is now the first city in Texas to partner with Main Street America on a program across multiple areas of a city, according to a press release. There are five others in the nation: Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Orlando, Fla. The goal of the Main Street program is to grow and develop small business in a neighborhood while maintaining the neighborhood’s identity.

The Main Street pilot program is part of Fort Worth’s plan to bring new businesses and economic stability into predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, to counter years of disinvestment.

That means pushing back against long-standing systemic inequality, Collins said. She pointed to the practice of redlining that reinforced racial segregation in American cities and blocked people of color from homeownership and wealth building. Fort Worth is still feeling the consequences of that policy, Collins said, because it directed which neighborhoods banks would invest in.

"When we've grown, we haven't always grown the same way,” Collins said.

The goals for Northside and Poly

The Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Southeast Fort Worth Inc. plan to start new organizations to focus solely on the Main Street program, using the funding to hire full-time staff members – people who ideally speak English and Spanish. They’re also fundraising to continue the program after the city’s three-year pilot ends.

Anette Landeros is the president and CEO of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and a business owner in Northside. She and her husband own Casa Azul Coffee on West Central Avenue, right off the Main Street program’s area of focus: North Main Street.

"If you drive down North Main, we are the connecting point between two of the most visited areas in our city, the Stockyards and downtown,” Landeros said. “But there's this corridor that still has boarded up buildings and is clearly in need of some revitalization."

The North Main corridor has a wealth of restaurants, like the famous Joe T. Garcia’s. There’s the Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center for the Arts and a proposal for another arts center down the street: the transformation of a decrepit former Ku Klux Klan building.

The Ku Klux Klan hall on Fort Worth's Northside was built in 1926. The Ellis Pecan company owned it for 50 years.
Jerome Weeks
The former Ku Klux Klan hall on Fort Worth's Northside was built in 1926. The Ellis Pecan company owned it for 50 years. Now a coalition of arts and service groups bought it and plans to turn it into a space for performance and racial healing.

Still, there are plenty of gaps in the Northside that Landeros would like to see filled with the help of the Main Street program.

"It's rich in culture, being a heavily Latino area, but it's really just always lacked the resources and the investment, in my opinion, to really be able to kick start something meaningful," Landeros said.

Poly has similar issues with empty lots and blight, said Stacy Marshall, president and CEO of Southeast Fort Worth Inc.

Texas Wesleyan University is “a catalyst and a jewel” in the middle of the neighborhood, he said, but Poly should have more destinations than just the college. He wants to attract more small businesses to the area, with a special focus on Vaughn Boulevard, between Texas Wesleyan and the Renaissance Square shopping center.

That development will help nearby neighborhoods like Stop Six and the Historic Southside, too, he said.

"To create that ripple effect, let's drop a pebble in the water and then spread out," Marshall said.

The new Main Street organizations in each neighborhood also aim to give residents more representation in the development process.

“Northside, as I mentioned, is a very proud and strong community, and they are very vocal as well about not wanting to be gentrified,” Landeros said. “We are in this community, so we understand those concerns. Nobody wants to be priced out of their homes."

That’s why the Main Street model focuses on businesses that work within the wants, needs and price point of the existing community, said Dionne Baux, the vice president of urban development with Main Street America.

“Those are ways that you are making certain that these new businesses that are being brought into the community are welcoming that existing community, and not signaling that, you know, now it's a change, and we don't want you here,” Baux said.

Besides starting the new Main Street-focused organizations, Landeros and Marshall are thinking about the first achievements they want to make in the next few years. For both Northside and Poly, that includes beautification. Landeros would also like to see improved street lighting and public safety.

The city also plans to expand the Main Street program to other neighborhoods. Martha Collins, with the city’s Economic Development Department, said the city received other applications from areas like Evans and Rosedale, Como and Riverside.

That’s why Northside and Poly want to start the program off with success, Landeros said.

"I think that we both feel, of course, the excitement of the opportunity, but also the responsibility of making sure that we're successful so that other corridors in our city can then follow in the program, and hopefully this program can continue to grow,” she said. “That's what ideally we all want.”

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.