Fort Worth continues pursuing West Side planNovember 27, 2013
A. Lee Graham
Efforts to spur economic development in West Fort Worth continue to gain momentum as elected officials hammer out plans to revitalize the area.
“The bottom line is to enhance the quality of life for these communities,” said Kendall Wendling, a transportation planner with the North Central Texas Council of Governments, in a recent interview with the Fort Worth Business Press.
The Arlington-based agency is overseeing a regional effort to revitalize not only parts of Fort Worth skirting the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, but also several small communities nearby that have seen some residents and businesses leave town in recent years.
Gaining new townsfolk, attracting retailers, making road improvements and simply boosting the communities’ cachet are the goals of a study aimed at achieving those ends.
The effort gained renewed support in late October when a committee studying the initiative endorsed findings of a study examining ways to bring more business into Benbrook, Fort Worth, Lake Worth, River Oaks, Sansom Park, Westworth Village and White Settlement.
The idea is to support development compatible with reserve base operations.
“We’re now in the process of meeting with individual cities on study recommendations,” Dan Kessler, assistant director of transportation with the council of governments, said recently.
Funding the $800,000 study was a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with a $200,000 local match from the Regional Transportation Council.
The goal of what officials call Planning for Livable Military Communities is to attract businesses to the area to maximize its existing cultural and retail resources.
Part of that initiative could make travel easier through the area. That’s because improving parts of Texas 183 and 199 are expected to be included in the redevelopment effort.
“We’ll look at what improvements are needed and what those cost,” said Kessler.
He cited new sidewalks as well as street and drainage improvements as some of the potential upgrades.
That would please Jack Adkison.
“Each one of us is an older city and we’re trying to modernize just a little bit and make ourselves look just a little bit better,” said Adkison, a former River Oaks councilman and current chairman of the Regional Coordination Committee, comprising leaders from several other cities.
What’s good for River Oaks is good for Fort Worth, according to District 7 Fort Worth Councilman Dennis Shingleton.
“The rising tide raises all ships,” said Shingleton, hoping that the plan spurs new housing around the base.
“It could be from higher-density apartments to single dwellings, and I hope it is,” said Shingleton.
He also shared his hopes for retail development.
“Not necessarily for big boxes, but more boulevard retail, much like we have on West Seventh Street or Camp Bowie,” he said.
Asked whether an urban, somewhat upscale concept such as the West Seventh Street development could succeed in a more remote, working-class community such as White Settlement, Shingleton replied, “There is no monetary distinction. This could work for any community.”
Having secured committee support for the study’s findings, Kessler said that officials plan to identify funding to pay for infrastructure improvements and other expenses recommended in the study.
The committee’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Jan. 27 in Fort Worth.