Walmart has made an offer on the old Travis Avenue Baptist Church annex, on West Berry Street, which was once a Safeway grocery store.
The retailer has held a series of talks with residents in the Hemphill neighborhood. Walmart isn’t expected to complete the sale until a feasibility study is completed.
Neighborhood representatives, members of the church, and Berry Street Initiative representatives met with Walmart officials four times last month to discuss the feasibility of a grocery, said Arty Wheaton-Rodriguez, senior planner of Fort Worth’s Planning and Development Department.
Walmart representatives, after repeated requests, could not be reached for comment.
Many believe that a new Walmart grocery would be a good thing for the urban, lower-income community in the area surrounding Hemphill. It would be the largest project of its kind for the area. “A mainstream market in the area could provide a great asset to the community, as it would show that a major company has studied the demographics of the area, and determined that consumers … could use a stand-alone grocery store in their community,” said Deyra Galvan, council aide to District 9 Council member Joel Burns, who represents the area.
The development is still in its feasibility study and no formal submissions have come in to the city,” Galvan added.
Some residents have voiced concerns about the retailer’s proposal. Fernando Florez, a stakeholder in the Hemphill Corridor Task Force, believes the current plan violates various city ordinances and zoning codes. He said it also differs from the area’s master plan.
“I am looking for feedback from some people in the neighborhood,” said Florez, who said he wants to make sure residents are satisfied with the building’s design. “We have a lot invested into the village, so we don’t want to blow it,” he said.
In email correspondence to Florez, Wheaton-Rodriguez discussed the plans. “Overall, this is a good project for the area, as long as careful thought is given to the building’s design. The design standards … weren’t put there by accident. We included them … so that buildings that were designed in urban villages were done in a unique fashion to where a district is formed.”
Travis Avenue has used the annex, which has an appraised value of $2.4 million, as a dining facility and gymnasium, since 1987. Walmart would convert the 45,000-square-foot property back into a grocery store, that would be slightly larger than the Walmart grocery in Ridglea Hills.
“[Walmart] made us an offer,” said Donnie Voss, Senior Associate Pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist. “We were originally not expecting any kind of proposal from Walmart. We did some negotiation before we ended up making the deal.”
The retailer has the support of the nearby Frisco Heights neighborhood.
“In my opinion, this is a good use of the land,” said Alex Clarke, Frisco Heights Neighborhood Association president. “One of the keys to urban development is a national type grocery store. Grocery chains have largely deserted such areas.”
Galvan said there are also concerns about traffic and noise. “You have a project that could potentially go into a location where the site has not been active for many years,” she said.
It should be reiterated that plans for the grocery are still in its infancy. Wheaton-Rodriguez added that, while the process was in full swing, the Hemphill community was still months away from submitting a formal plan to the city.
As the debate continues, the residents of Hemphill and the 109 can only wait to see what happens next.