Urban Beat
September 3, 2013

Fort Worth has more urban living options than you might think!

urbanftw

Fort Worth downtown skyline at duskThe richness of Urban Fort Worth is evidenced by the fact that each of its distinct neighborhoods “march to the beat of a different drummer.” Downtown Fort Worth has the hustle and bustle of skyscrapers and office buildings. The Cultural District has welcomed the development of So7, adding retail and entertainment to the internationally recognized museum and theater experience that has characterized the area for several decades. The redevelopment of the Magnolia Street area has brought a trendy, artistic vibe to what has become known as Near Southside. Add the current plan of Trinity Uptown and you have a city that revels in individuality and offers a wealth of opportunities to engage, explore and experience all that is Urban Fort Worth.

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Is New Urbanism Catching On In Fort Worth?
October 4, 2012

Fort Worth has a rich cultural heritage and has done a good job of preserving that heritage. With one foot in the Old West and one in the 21st Century, Fort Worth is a unique candidate for New Urbanism and it should embrace the concept with open-arms. One attempt by Fort Worth to embrace New Urbanism is the Trinity Uptown project. Trinity Uptown is a large mixed-use development, north of downtown Ft. Worth, that will feature 3,000,000 SF of commercial space and approximately 10,000 residences. It will consist of a 33 acre lake with a boardwalk and 12 miles of flowing canals and public walkways. The lake, boardwalk and canals will comprise the heart and soul of Trinity Uptown and will ultimately connect the northern edge of downtown with the stockyards. There will be shopping, dining, and entertainment as well as office and residential. Over the next decade, it will become one of the most comprehensive examples of New Urbanism in the country.

Other attempts on the part of Fort Worth to embrace New Urbanism are Sundance Square and Near Southside.  Both Sundance and Near Southside promote walkable neighborhoods where a person might feasibly live, work, and play all within the same neighborhood.  This often requires that city leaders rethink and reshape zoning rules and regulations that tend to discourage New Urbanism.  Along this line of thinking, city leaders have introduced form-based development codes or guidelines.
But what is New Urbanism anyway?  According to Wikipedia:  New Urbanism is an urban design movement which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s, and has gradually continued to reform many aspects of real estate developmenturban planning, and municipal land-use strategies.  New Urbanism is strongly influenced by urban design standards that were prominent until the rise of the automobile in the mid-20th century; it encompasses principles such as traditional neighborhood design (TND) and transit-oriented development (TOD). It is also closely related to regionalismenvironmentalism and the broader concept of smart growth. The movement also includes a more pedestrian-oriented variant known as New Pedestrianism, which has its origins in a 1929 planned community in Radburn, New Jersey.
ImageNew Urbanism is catching on in cities across the nation.  Cities such as Fort Worth should lead the way toward adopting New Urbanism design standards, as well as embrace ‘New Suburbanism’.  The suburbs need to adopt the same ideas put forward by New Urbanism.  It’s doubtful the suburbs are going anywhere in Texas so it is important to address the same issues in the suburbs that are being addressed in the urban core.  This may seem in contrast to New Urbanism’s philosophy, but connecting the suburban areas and urban areas via linkages like commuter rail is crucial to the long-term growth of a city like Fort Worth.  If it means making suburban neighborhoods more walkable with open space and retail nearby, then applying New Urbanism principles in the suburbs is a good thing.  Smart growth in both suburban and urban areas is extremely important if progress is to be made toward the goal of reducing pollution and congestion.  Just like in urban areas, suburban areas could be designed to be more dense with narrower streets and more green space.  A meaningful approach to development, whether it is new development, adaptive reuse, or redevelopment, is crucial to a city’s survival, especially one that is growing as fast as Fort Worth.  In the case of Trinity Uptown, it will be nice to see the Trinity River become a part of people’s lives in Fort Worth.

A Whirlwind Central Texas Real Estate Tour
June 13, 2012

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2012 Cool House Tour
Austin, TX

This past week, Liana and I toured the real estate markets of Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.  It all started on Sunday at the Cool House Tour in Austin, revealing that Austin is still keeping it weird in spite of the crazy traffic.  Austin is the Texas front-runner when it comes to energy efficient green-built homes.  Many of the homes we toured were really amazing.  The traffic however was not so cool.  After two full days of real estate site visits in Austin, we headed out for San Antonio via Wimberly, TX where we visited with an innovative architect named Neel Morton.  He took us on a private tour of his soon to be private residence that is currently under construction.  Coolest features were the use of construction material made out of recycled pallets and the cooling tower.  Thanks Mr. Morton for the tour, the hospitality, and the explanation of how rammed earth construction works.  Then it was on to San Antonio where we visited some great mixed-use developments and spent some time with commercial developers, Ed Cross and Marty Wender.  Mr. Wender is the developer who brought Sea World to Texas along with many other major employers.  Who knows maybe Disney will follow – Disney TX just makes sense!  Many thanks to Ed Cross and Marty Wender for their time and willingness to share what has worked and not worked for them in the real estate industry.  Also, thanks to Mr. Cross for the hands-on tour of his exceptional project, The Vistana, close to downtown San Antonio.   Mr. Cross and his architect did a fantastic job on the design of this building.  On a green building note, we also visited with Lawrence Jetter from AECT, a company that makes compressed earth bricks.  Very cool – thanks for the time Mr. Jetter.  After seeing some really neat stuff in San Antonio, we were off to Houston where we visited City Centre, talked with AMREIT officials, and visited

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Discovery Green in Houston, TX

Discovery Green Park.  The park is a homerun and is adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center on one side and downtown Houston on the other.  It is a must see while visiting Houston.  Thanks to site manager, William Flowers, for a terrific tour and education about all the sustainable features built into the park.  Of course, there were many more site visits and much more to talk about but my time is up.  Suffice it to say that the real estate markets in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston are doing well just like North Texas is.  Thanks to Dr. Fred Forgey of UTA for putting the trip together.