Fort Worth cancels $70M development contract in Historic Southside. What comes next?dfwnewsa | December 18, 2023 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News
Engraved plaques dedicated to community movers and shakers sit along the red brick sidewalks at Evans Avenue Plaza. The plaques are one of many visions resident Johnny Lewis and his wife, Shirley Lewis, had for the area. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)
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About 15 years ago, an economic downturn put an end to the planned redevelopment of the historically Black Historic Southside.
On Sunday, the city of Fort Worth announced the latest plan to create a new commercial and residential urban village in the Historic Southside was canceled following significant delays.
Dallas-based developer Hoque Global was promised $19.7 million in land, grants and payments from the Southside tax increment financing district.
In return, the city expected a $70 million private mixed-use development at Evans Avenue and Rosedale Street. A Chapter 380 agreement gave Hoque six months to secure funding and purchase the properties. That deadline passed in December 2022.
The city extended Hoque’s deadlines three times before suspending them in September.
To fulfill the terms of the agreement, the company is required to secure financing and buy the land for the development. The company has failed to meet those “key deadlines,” the city said in an announcement.
Council member Chris Nettles, who represents the Historic Southside, said the termination will allow the project to move forward in a new way.
“We dedicated funds to this area. We worked with the developer, the planning department and the development services department to get things done,” Nettles said. “Unfortunately, after so many deadlines not met — as well as extensions not being met — we decided to do right by the community,” and terminate the contract, he said.
In a statement, Hoque Global said the organization’s work incorporated feedback from residents, included extensive investment and followed the lead of the city of Fort Worth.
Hoque Global completed construction plans in January 2023 and was waiting for the city to process building permits and environmental clearance from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, according to the statement.
“We are deeply concerned with the city of Fort Worth’s current decision, which will only further delay development in the Historic Southside area,” the statement reads.
The contract between the city and Hoque Global was nearly four years in the making. After holding workshops with the Historic Southside community, the city created a new master plan for the Evans and Rosedale redevelopment project. The plan includes commercial and residential development compatible with the historic buildings in the area, more public spaces and pedestrian-friendly design.
After reviewing eight proposals to lead redevelopment of the area, the city selected Hoque Global in 2019.
The project is tied to funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, which must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by Dec. 31, 2026. The mayor and council still plan to use the federal funds for the Evans and Rosedale Redevelopment project, Nettles said. The city hopes to get a new partner involved in the project by early 2024, he added.
The land ripe for redevelopment has sat vacant for years. Using federal funds may be the last opportunity for the city to spur development in the Historic Southside, he said.
“We have to do it with these dollars,” Nettles said. “Because we lose these dollars, I will tell you, that window of change happening will close rapidly.”
The city said it hopes to see construction begin by early 2025.
A development 20 years in the making
The Historic Southside was once home to many thriving Black-owned businesses. However, decades of disinvestment have resulted in empty storefronts, decaying housing and a ZIP code with the lowest life expectancy in Texas.
The city started redeveloping the Evans and Rosedale Urban Village in 2000. Since then, the city, along with the Fort Worth Housing Financing Corporation and Local Development Corporation, has obtained 36 parcels of land in the Evans and Rosedale area.
The city prepared and rezoned the parcels for revitalization, built a new library and improved the park in the area. Despite these efforts, few successful private redevelopment efforts have taken hold. Conditions worsened following the 2008 recession and the city lost focus on the first iteration of an Evans and Rosedale Urban Village Master Plan
Longtime Southside resident Johnny Lewis has witnessed every phase of planned redevelopment in the Historic Southside. He’s happy the contract with Hoque Global is ending.
“I tend to think that Hoque Global bites off more than they can chew,” Lewis said. “I just want to see us start moving forward from this point.”
The community has already worked hard to improve the neighborhood, Lewis said. Dozens of former and current Historic Southside residents worked to combat gang activity in the neighborhood and improve nearby parks and public spaces.
The Historic Southside Neighborhood Association plans to host more events in Evans and Rosedale next year and continue advocating for the betterment of Glenwood Park nearby. They want people to see that the Historic Southside is a community that is valued and invested in, Lewis said.
Now, the city needs to get serious about investing in the Historic Southside, Lewis said.
“We can have all the fervor and all the passion,” Lewis said. But the city controls “whatever money comes in. They control the land,” he said.
Lewis’ turned 77 years old the day after the city announced canceling the contract. He’s thinking about all the people who worked to make the community safe and the children who will inherit the Historic Southside with all its challenges and advantages.
“We are doing damage to them,” Lewis said. “It was damage that wasn’t allowed to be done to me when I was a kid, so I’ve worked in this neighborhood and tried to keep the damage minimal.”
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com 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.