With area’s reputation on the line, Fort Worth’s West 7th developers invest in safety

dfwnewsa | December 13, 2023 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

With area’s reputation on the line, Fort Worth’s West 7th developers invest in safety

Bar goers walk past police cars at 1 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, near West 7th’s Foch Street. Officers park their cars at the intersection to manage traffic and respond to calls. (Rachel Behrndt | Fort Worth Report)
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As city of Fort Worth officials toured safety consultants around Fort Worth’s entertainment districts last week, they were treated to a peaceful tree lighting at Sundance Square and an evening at Mule Alley in the Stockyards. 

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Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa accompanied the consultants, The Responsible Hospitality Institute and Safe Night LLC, on the tour. However, it wasn’t the best illustration of the city’s challenges with safety in the four nightlife-centric neighborhoods: Fort Worth  Stockyards, Downtown, Near Southside and West 7th.

“We told them we want to talk about problems, and all they saw was vitality and safety,” Costa said. 

The tour also included meetings with civic, business and residential leaders — in each of their neighborhoods — who described their unique challenges with safety and security.  

City leaders and business owners began looking for new ways to invest in the safety of Fort Worth’s entertainment districts following the shooting death of TCU junior Wes Smith. The city had already increased police presence, installed cameras and banned open containers in the area. 

Now, Fort Worth plans to invest about $500,000 through the Crime Control and Prevention District into the safety of West 7th and other entertainment districts. The Crime Control and Prevention District is a pot of money separate from the police department’s annual budget; it’s funded through sales tax revenues and used for public safety. 

The city will use CCPD funding to spend $140,000 on traffic bollards to create a one-way traffic flow out of the West 7th area after bars close for the night. The change will allow officers working in West 7th to spend less time blocking off roads and more time patrolling the area when bars close. 

The city is joined by several private organizations who plan to form a public improvement district that will create a new source of revenue to spend on new lighting and security measures. 

Moody Younger and Kathy Permenter, co-owners of Younger Partners, have a hand in several efforts to reinvest in the safety of West 7th. They are leading the charge to establish a public improvement district in the area, which will pay for things such as ambassadors to serve as extra eyes on the street. 

While the improvement district is getting established, the city will spend $315,000 to float a one-year pilot program to employ three ambassadors. The ambassador program planned for the area in 2024 is patterned after downtown’s similar program, which has seen significant success, Costa said. 

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Several public and private partners will fund the safety in entertainment districts study. The city is contributing $50,000. The rest will come from Visit Fort Worth, organizations in the four entertainment districts and Younger Partners, the company that owns the newly rebranded Artisan Circle in the West 7th area.

An 18-member steering committee interviewed the two consultants being considered to lead the entertainment district study. After the interviews, the committee chose its preferred consultant. Another group of residents who live near the districts also had a say in the final decision. The city has begun negotiating the terms of the agreement, which will be considered by the City Council in January. From there, it likely will be 12 months before the city receives the finished report. 

“We’re going to be collecting a lot of data about how well these districts are functioning, various factors influencing safety and security in these areas and basing recommendations upon our analysis of the data,” Costa said. 

Based on the consultant’s initial analysis, issues seem to be the most pressing in the West 7th and Stockyards districts, Costa said. 

West 7th saw the most crime in six months, but numbers fluctuate  

The issue in West 7th is more an issue of perception than West 7th being an especially dangerous part of town, Younger said. 

Crime statistics in West 7th look similar to the city’s other entertainment districts. 

From June 15 to Dec. 11, West 7th had the most reported crimes within a half-mile radius, about 443 incidents and 75 assaults. That’s a change from statistics collected just two months ago, when Downtown saw nearly double the reported crimes compared with the other entertainment districts. 

In the recent statistics, Downtown had the second- most reported incidents, 398, and more assaults than West 7th, with 89. The Stockyards had 279 incidents and Near Southside had 268. 

The numbers fluctuate from month to month. From April to October, Downtown had the most reported crimes compared with the other entertainment districts. 

Property owners to contribute $1.85 million annually for improvements

Despite the stats, developers are drawn to invest in the city’s entertainment districts. Younger Partners, which describes itself as “bullish” on Fort Worth, is working to establish a public improvement district that will include properties around West 7th, including the Cultural District and Montgomery Plaza. The public improvement district’s primary function will be improving safety in the district. 

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“It’s all perception. It’s completely a perception issue within the city, and within the community,” Younger said. “But we want to be the safest.”

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West 7th district’s Crockett Row has been rebranded as Artisan Circle. (Courtesy rendering | Younger Partners)

Younger’s property, Artisan Circle, is adjacent to the West 7th bar district. The company’s priority is ensuring people feel safe in and around their property, Younger Partners co-owner Permenter said. 

“What’s going to make you feel comfortable? It’s more lighting, more police presence,” Permenter said. 

To that end, alongside a rebranding effort, the company announced plans to install new lighting, landscaping, signing, benches and parking garage elevators. The private investment is paired with several public efforts to improve the reputation of the West 7th area, and link it more closely with the nearby cultural district. 

Younger Partners hopes to expand these efforts by creating a public improvement district that every property owner will pay into, and reap benefits from. 

A public improvement district is a defined area where property owners pay an additional tax to fund specific types of improvements or maintenance. Property owners must initiate the creation of a district and will have control over the types of improvements, level of maintenance and the amount property owners pay into the district. 

Private businesses have invested millions of dollars in the West 7th and adjacent cultural district. Two luxury hotels, The Crescent and Bowie House opened this winter. Goldenrod Companies recently announced plans to build a $400 million mixed use development on two sites. The city agreed to furnish a $30 million economic development agreement with Goldenrod Companies.

“It’s surrounded by great real estate, some of the best real estate in the city,” Younger said. 

The proposed West 7th public improvement district will include the West 7th district, Montgomery Plaza properties and some parts of the Cultural District, between University Drive and Clear Fork of the Trinity River. 

The area’s commercial properties have a taxable value of $921.9 million. If a public improvement district is established, property owners could pay an additional 20 cents on top of the city’s property tax rate. 

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That means, a property with a taxable value of $2.19 million will pay an additional $4,287 in property taxes. The city expects the public improvement district to have about $1.85 million in revenue to spend it its first year. 

An ordinance establishing the public improvement district could go to City Council for a vote in spring 2024, Costa said. 

“A lot of work remains to be done, literally going door to door, getting people to sign a petition saying we want to pay, effectively, additional taxes,” Costa said. 

The city currently has 13 public improvement districts, including two in the Stockyards and Downtown. 

Scott Wilcox, chief financial officer at the Amon Carter Museum of Art and chair of the Fort Worth Cultural District Alliance, agrees that a public improvement district will be beneficial to the entire area. 

“The focus, of course, is initially going to be on the West 7th area, but if we can get those safety and security issues solved, then there’s no reason that it wouldn’t benefit everybody that’s functioning in it,” Wilcox said. 

Despite the broad mix of West 7th businesses — from clubs to ritzy hotels — most organizations operating in and around the area are eager to invest, Wilcox said. 

“All of the owners of these new hotels and properties … I think they are very quick to understand that what benefits one part of the Cultural District benefits all of it,” Wilcox said.  

Buy-in from private businesses will be key to implementing the study’s recommendations, Costa said. He’s encouraged by the number of businesses who have chosen to participate so far. 

“The city of Fort Worth is providing leadership on the study, but the city by itself cannot effectively address all of the issues that are affecting the entertainment districts,” Costa said.

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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