Fort Worth renovation creates a more unique city
In a city filled with culture, history and a small-town vibe, Fort Worth has grown to be the booming metropolis of the Southwest. One can be a cowboy, a city dweller, an artist, a Horned Frog and a restaurant connoisseur all in a good day’s work. Thanks to the revitalizations of areas such as West 7th Street and Near Southside, the Fort Worth experience possesses even more uniqueness. But these continuously growing hot spots did not pop up over night. It has taken much valuable time, hard work and millions of dollars to make these areas such a success.
If you were to ask my mother her favorite weekend hangout while she was a student at TCU in the 80’s, chances are she would have not answered anywhere near West 7th Street. Since then, the long road that connects downtown to the Cultural District has transformed into one of the most desirable locations to live, work and play. The ever-popular development that sits on the corner of West 7th Street and North University Drive hosts anything from trendy shops to an array of restaurants.
West 7th Street behaves like a modern town in its own. The establishment all began with the renovation of the Montgomery Ward building, in July of 2004. Fort Worth is notorious for recycling and restoring buildings and homes, especially if it is as monumental as the Montgomery Ward structure. When Montgomery Ward closed its doors in 2001, all that remained on West 7th Street was Fred’s Texas Café, La Familia and a vacant department store that would soon become 7th Street’s own, Montgomery Plaza.
With the thriving success of the venues located beneath the luxury lofts of Montgomery Plaza, West 7th Street quickly became a desirable area for upcoming businesses and curious consumers. Some people thought investing millions of dollars in such lavish developments during such a terrible economic state was a recipe for failure. Boy, were they wrong.
“It’s the place to be,” said Bailey Burgess, senior strategic communication major. “I could not have imagined it being so popular when I was a freshman.”
She said that, in the past, she and her friends used to have to drive to Dallas to go out at such upscale restaurants and bars. Now equivalent spots are not far from her own backyard.
Burgess said she remembers when all West 7th Street had to offer was 7th Haven and Chimy’s.
“Even in the past few months, I have noticed an increasing amount of TCU students hitting the West 7th scene,” she said.
After the dinner crowd dies down, many of the restaurants turn into trendy late night destinations. Places like Bar Louie, Brownstone and Love Shack have recently become favorite weekend getaways for TCU students.
“It’s really convenient because if we get bored at one bar, we can easily walk to another and know just as many people there,” Burgess said. “You will always run into someone you know. It’s a lot of fun.”
West 7th sounds like the ideal all-in-one experience for college students and young adults. But when thousands of people all converge on a single road at the same time, West 7th Street becomes a congested zoo for cars.
Parking is the first issue here. Sure, there are parking garages, but good luck finding a decent spot after 8 p.m. Cars will play chicken with one another to win that open parking spot. Carpooling or catching a cab is always a smart idea, especially for TCU students.
Bumper-to-bumper traffic brings out the inner road rage in 7th Street commuters. Making a left hand turn at a place without a stoplight is nearly impossible. I often find myself sitting at a red light for what seems like an eternity.
The Lofts at West 7th proceed to construct more lavish lofts for the high demand to live in such a flourishing part of town. Residents quickly filled the luxury apartments when first opened in 2010. Since then, The Lofts at West 7th have had to put many potential residents on a waiting list. Until the 96 apartments, which are currently being constructed, are finished.
A night outing at West 7th leaves people of all ages endless entertainment options. One can eat while catching a movie, go upscale bowling at Lucky Strike, enjoy live music or grab happy hour with friends. The possibilities are endless.
West 7th is not the only place that is giving its Fort Worth persona a 360-degree turn around. Just minutes away from the TCU campus, Near Southside and the surrounding areas are proudly creating a new urban image for the Historic Southside of Panther City.
In the four short years I have been in college, I can confidently admit that the Southside of Fort Worth has made one of the biggest transformations I have seen yet. For years, this unique part of Cowtown was known as the Medical District, and eventually developed the reputation as being a “bad part of town” due to its disrepair.
How does an area with the largest concentration of historic buildings and homes in Central Fort Worth become such a ghost town?
After World War II, what was once a popular residential community, Near Southside grew to be the perfect spot for industrialization, repelling potential tenants.
Fort Worth South, Inc., a non-profit organization working to sustain the momentum of the Near Southside’s revitalization, saw the beauty that lies within these original structures. Fort Worth South, Inc. and other non-profit organizations sought out to renovate and preserve the antique buildings that had such potential to be something worth appreciating.
Today, things are definitely looking up for Near Southside. By revitalizing abandoned historical buildings and homes, Fort Worth South, Inc. continues to promote and help Near Southside and surrounding neighborhoods maintain its charm.
Richard King, co-owner of Ellerbe Fine Foods, said that without the help of Fort Worth South, the restaurant’s success would not be anywhere close to what it is now.
The community with the “can do” attitude is constantly working together to support each other’s businesses and transform worn down buildings into functioning vintage establishments. Ellerbe Fine Foods, which is located on Magnolia Avenue, turned a former gas station into a gourmet restaurant, Markeen Apartments has transformed one of the oldest buildings of Near Southside into modern day apartments. The relaxed vibe and historic character of the area continue to attract new businesses and residents to Near Southside.
The Near Southside community is making the area feel more like a neighborhood, rather than just another part of town. Planting trees, widening sidewalks and building bike lanes are just a few innovative actions supporters of the Southside community are taking to make it more at home.
Sponsored events and marathons, like Joe’s Run, help bring income and promote sponsorship to Near Southside
Venturing to Near Southside will not leave you disappointed or bored. The area has put emphasis on its appreciation for art, music and local businesses. Events such as ArtsGoggle, First Friday on the Green and Joe’s Run attract thousands of visitors to the district, helping to boost business and a sense of community.
The food truck craze is another unordinary commodity in the area. Food tucks that keep popping up throughout Near Southside. Lee’s Grilled Cheese, Nom Nom and Yes! Taco are often seen camped out in the AVOCA Coffee parking lot on Magnolia. The trucks are a favorite among working men and women in the area that are crunched for time during lunch. Be sure to check the truck’s schedules at foodtrucksfortworth.com to see where the trucks will be parked next.
Near Southside such a special place to live, work or visit because it is a community in which families are able to walk or ride their bikes to grab a bite to eat is what makes.
Near Southside is not like any other part of Fort Worth, and that is something that speaks for itself. It is truly remarkable that the dedication and hope of a few resulted in such a large effort to recreate the Southside of town. If that doesn’t show a collaborative sense of community, I’m not sure what does.
West 7th Street and Near Southside are distinctive areas that contribute to Fort Worth’s unique experience.
Both scenes continue to flourish and attract new and returning visitors to the cultural melting pot of Texas.
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