FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth City Council approved an incentive plan Tuesday night to allow redevelopment of the historic Stockyards district.
Council members heard lots of comments against the $175 million plan that would add hotels, apartments and retail space.
The land is owned by the family of longtime businessman Holt Hickman, who brought in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and helped boost the area's Western flair... something some residents fear could be lost.
"People come from around the world, they save their money, they plan, they scrape, so they can come and see the real deal, because that's what we are," one speaker said.
A preview story filed by WFAA reporter Jim Douglas before Tuesday's council meeting follows:
Just like overcooking a steak, some champions of the Fort Worth Stockyards fear that too much of the wrong kind of development could ruin its Western flavor.
British tourist Peter Wheeler recoiled at the thought.
"We love it as it is, actually,” he said. “We come here every year because of the Stockyards."
Wheeler likes to dip his toe into Western life so much that he wears his Justin boots to work in London. He was wearing them on Exchange Avenue Tuesday when he encountered Steve Murrin discussing his concerns about potential new development.
"I'm protesting,” Murrin told him. A former City Council member, Murrin bought into Stockyards businesses back when the future didn't look so good.
"We saved the whole thing from the bulldozer in the early 70s," he said.
Now Murrin wants the City Council to slow down before approving tax incentives for a $175 million development project. It would bring new hotels, apartments, and retail.
"It is a National Historic District. It's a national treasure," Murrin emphasized, through his trademark white mustache beneath his trademark white cowboy hat.
He said his biggest concern is a lack of specific commitment for the type of development that would qualify for the incentives. Murrin wants assurances there will be no strip center or big box stores.
The land ripe for development is owned by the family of long-time Fort Worth businessman Holt Hickman. They brought in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and a huge collection of antique wagons, among other improvements to the area.
“My hat is off to Holt Hickman,” Murrin said.
The family is partnering with Majestic Realty of California. They promise to fix up the barns; try to bring livestock auctions back; do something with the ruins of the old Swift meat packing plant; and — above all — keep the Stockyards authentically Western.
There's so much on the line that both sides planned to give Council members an earful Tuesday night in anticipation of a vote.