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Former Fort Worth councilman seeks postponement of vote on Stockyards redevelopment plan

Scott Nishimura
snishimura@bizpress.net

Former Fort Worth City Councilman Steve Murrin, whose cowboy visage typifies the city’s western heritage, says he’ll ask for a postponement of Tuesday’s council vote on a proposed incentive agreement for a $175 million redevelopment project in the historic Stockyards.

Murrin said Friday he hasn’t received personal assurances from the developers - a partnership of Fort Worth’s Hickman family and Majestic Realty Co. of California - that they’ll do enough to protect the historical, architectural and cultural flavor of the Stockyards.

The Hickmans, long the Stockyards’ largest property owner, entered into the partnership with Majestic on the redevelopment, the group and city announced June 3.

“You want to see Texas, you go to Fort Worth,” Murrin said. “I don’t think this group is considering that.”

Murrin said he is trying to organize other Stockyards’ business owners to appear at the council meeting June 10 to delay the vote.

The Hickman family and Majestic, in a letter June 2 to Mayor Betsy Price and council members, said they envisioned destination retail, restaurants, hotels, corporate headquarters, craft breweries, and residential as possibilities for additions to, and redevelopment of, the holdings that businessman Holt Hickman began buying in the 1980s.

In the 1990s, Hickman and partner Lyda Hill of Dallas redeveloped much of the holdings, to include the Stockyards Station festival center in the old hog and sheep pens, a new visitors center, and new Hyatt Place hotel.

The holdings also include the historic 200,000-square-foot horse and mule barns on East Exchange Street. The Majestic-Hickman partnership views the horse and mule barns as a key piece of the redevelopment, potentially housing anything from corporate headquarters in the 250-400-employee range to retail and restaurants.

Majestic vice president Craig Cavileer and Hickman vice president Brad Hickman - son of Holt Hickman - vowed earlier this week not to make significant changes to the barns’ exterior, and to hew to the historical flavor of the Stockyards in anything new they develop.

They also supported Price’s call earlier in the week for the creation of design standards in the Stockyards that ensure future development fits the area’s flavor.

Cavileer, in a joint interview with Hickman earlier in the week, called the Stockyards “an international brand” that has “a theme that’s already determined” and is “iconic.”

Gary Brinkley, general manager for Stockyards Station and a spokesman for the Majestic-Hickman group, said Friday in response to Murrin that “the Holt Hickman family has spent 25 years enhancing and preserving the western culture of the Stockyards.

“We have always been committed to the western heritage and culture of the Stockyards and will continue our longstanding commitment with our development partners, Majestic Realty Co.”

Brinkley said the HIckmans’ investments have included more than $1 million in “stabilizing and preserving the internationally famous Livestock Exchange Building;” more than $1 million to buy a historic wagon collection and Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame collection and move them to the Stockyards; participation in the creation of the Fort Worth Herd in 1999 and more than $150,000 in in-kind support to the Herd annually; establishment of the National Day of the American Cowboy in the Stockyards; participation as a major underwriter of the annual Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering; the typical hosting of three cattle sales events annually; and the hosting of other western cultural events such as Cowtown Goes Green.

Murrin said he fears new construction by the group won’t stick to the historical flavor, and he fears at least some of the new retail and restaurant tenants may end up being national brands that don’t fit the Stockyards.

“It’s not a national (chain) shopping center,” Murrin said in an interview. “It’s very unusual.”

District 2 Councilman Sal Espino, whose district includes the North Side, asked for a response Friday, didn’t say how he would respond to Murrin.

But he said in an email to The Business Press, “the mayor discussed developing design guidelines and development standards to preserve the unique Western feel of the Stockyards.

“I agree that such guidelines & standards are necessary and essential. The Planning & Development Department has been asked to work with Stockyards stakeholders in developing these guidelines and standards. We are all stewards and custodians of the rich historic legacy of the Stockyards.”

Murrin and his son Philip own the River Ranch Stockyards event venue. Murrin also is a part-owner in Stockyards 2000 L.P., whose holdings include Billy Bob’s Texas. The Hickman family is the largest shareholder in Stockyards 2000.

Murrin also confirmed Friday that River Ranch, 500 N.E. 23rd St., is under contract to buy an adjacent 8.9-acre site to the east of it owned by Chesapeake Energy.

Murrin said River Ranch needs the site for additional parking. River Ranch has 60-70 parking spaces, and Murrin said he believes he can get another 250 spaces on the second site.

He also plans to put up an animal pen facility for Future Farmers of America groups at nearby schools, he said.

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