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Evans Avenue businesses hope improvements bring customers

 

A. Lee Graham
lgraham@bizpress.net

Evans Avenue wants customers, not just the traffic.
For years, retailers along the Southside thoroughfare have watched motorists zip through their neighborhood, bypassing their places of business en route to other destinations.
But new plans aim to slow down those motorists and make Evans storefronts their new destination.
“What we want is pretty much a street-calming because people just slide through here,” said Ross Haynes, whose Cakes by Delessa has greeted customers since the bakery opened 15 years ago just east of Interstate 35.
Haynes and other retailers hope that newly approved street improvements will help attract more customers and deter motorists from speeding through their neighborhood.
“We’re going into the planning stages right now and looking at some streetscape enhancements,” said Paul Paine, president of Fort Worth South Inc., a nonprofit advocacy group for Southside revitalization.
The organization will serve as administrator for newly approved plans to fund up to $100,000 for hammering out a streetscape improvement strategy. New parking spaces, fewer traffic lanes and other features await Evans Avenue between East Rosedale Street and East Allen Avenue, with the neighborhood’s tax district, also known as TIF 4, approving the funding amount at its April 25 regular meeting.
With four traffic lanes reduced to three, including a center turn lane, the Evans Avenue reconfiguration is expected to slow traffic and encourage interest in the neighborhood.
“My thing has been, if it makes sense and we have the ability to do it, let’s do it,” said District 8 Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray, a member of the TIF 4 board, the tax increment financing district dedicated to promoting revitalization of the medical district and other Southside neighborhoods.
Paine and city public works officials are hammering out details of plans to restripe Evans Avenue from Rosedale to Allen, reducing the roadway from four lanes – two going north and two going south – to three lanes – one going north, one going south and a middle turn lane – and bike lanes on both sides of the street.
Paine dismissed comparisons to the controversial “road diet” that would restripe Forest Park Boulevard to slow traffic between Park Hill Drive and Rosedale Street by also changing it from four lanes to three plus bike lanes. He described traffic volume along the stretch of Evans as only 25 percent to 30 percent of Forest Park’s traffic.
“The best comparison is the way Main Street got restriped,” said Paine, referring to the stretch of Main from East Vickery Boulevard to Rosedale.
Evans’ restriping is expected to be done as early as the fall, but a timeline for landscaping and other improvements has not been confirmed.
Changes cannot come soon enough for Haynes. He has watched the Evans and Rosedale Urban Village prosper just north of his store as a new Wal-Mart Supercenter east of the area at Renaissance Square revitalizes that part of town.
“We want our businesses to grow and thrive just like businesses on the other side of the freeway,” Haynes said of retailers west of Interstate 35.
For years, Haynes has watched other parts of town greet more shoppers as new shops and shopping centers open. His bakery and other businesses served regulars but longed for new customers.
“It’s true that there’s been little done in that particular area,” said Paine, referring to redevelopment. He hopes that street improvements help attract more businesses and, in turn, more customers. The latter can’t occur before the former, he said.
“You can’t just go out and build a grocery store when there’s no one around it,” Paine said. “It’s a timing issue. This is the time, and we’re ready.” 
 

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Arena
What do you think of the new plans for a new Will Rogers arena and changes at the Convention Center?