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Major Stockyards development plan to be revealed June 3, Fort Worth's mayor says

By Scott Nishimura
snishimura@bizpress.net

A potential major mixed-use development in Fort Worth’s Stockyards will be unveiled June 3, Mayor Betsy Price told a neighborhood association meeting Wednesday night.

The announcement represented the latest dribbling of vague information about the potential development since a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce executive mentioned it in January at two public business meetings over two straight days.

“You’re about to see an announcement about the Stockyards on June 3 that’s really going to be nice,” Price told a crowded dinner meeting of the Woodhaven Neighborhood Association at the Woodhaven Country Club.

“It’s going to expand the tourism there,” said Price, who had just come into the club from leading a “Rolling Town Hall” bike ride in the neighborhood.

In an interview afterwards, Price said she couldn’t go into the specifics of the development or who’s behind it.

But she said the City Council will be briefed during its pre-council meeting June 3 on the development plan.

“We’re going to have a briefing on the development and give everybody a chance to look at the project, ask questions, and learn more about it,” she said.

Asked if public money will be a piece of it, Price said, “potentially. I have not seen the final development agreement. Potentially, it could, but the payoff for the city and the Stockyards could be huge.”

The city has often awarded incentives for infrastructure and other public improvements, or to close financing gaps for developers.

“Like any good development, the city needs to have a little piece of it,” Price added. “Generally, we help the developer one way or another.”

The city has used various tools, such as Chapter 380 last-resort gap financing grants, property tax abatements, public improvement districts, and tax increment finance districts, to provide incentives.

Price said she couldn’t be specific about what kind of incentive might be in play for the Stockyards development.

She also said she could not be specific about the size of the development.

Asked what kind of development it would be, she said, “it’ll be mixed-use. It’s largely commercial and tourism.”

Asked why the continued public hints, Price said, “people need to know the Stockyards is a real jewel. We need to see the potential of it developed.”

Price said the planned development will be in keeping with the history of the Stockyards, once one of the world’s largest livestock markets and packing centers.

“No one intends to do anything in the Stockyards that would damage the investment,” she said. “It’s a huge draw for Fort Worth.”

Asked if the June 3 briefing indicates the staff will present something for the council to vote on relatively soon after, Price said, “I don’t know that we know that yet.”

Since news emerged of the development in January, several business people contacted by The Business Press put Fort Worth’s Hickman family – businessman Holt Hickman began buying property in the historic Stockyards in the late 1980s and redeveloped his holdings along East Exchange Avenue in the 1990s to include Stockyards Station – at the center of the potential development.

Hickman’s son, Bradley Hickman Jr., who helps lead the company today, has declined interview requests about whether it’s involved in the Stockyards plan.

“We have nothing to share at this time,” Hickman said in an email several weeks ago to The Business Press.

David Berzina, executive vice president of economic development at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, first raised the possibility of a major development in January at the Society for Marketing Professional Services meeting and the 2014 Tarrant County Commercial Real Estate Forecast.

Berzina said a potential 30-acre development could be announced this year, but he didn’t elaborate in his talks or in an interview.

“We’re real excited about a new development that seems to be taking shape there,” he said at the real estate forecast.

The Hickmans still own property they’ve yet to redevelop in the Stockyards. Other parcels contiguous to Hickman holdings are for sale.

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