Bigger isn't better in Fort Worth urban villages

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by CASEY NORTON

WFAA

Posted on January 23, 2012 at 7:20 PM

FORT WORTH - Walmart, the world's largest retailer, wants to move near the Fort Worth intersection of Hemphill and Berry, and neighborhood leaders are thrilled with the idea of an economic boost.

It's the idea of a big, brick box store that's tempering the enthusiasm.

The Hemphill Corridor, the Berry Street Initiative and the city's urban village design plan want to hold Walmart to a higher standard for its Neighborhood Market. Design codes require significant upgrades in areas deemed "urban villages" under the city's plan. That would mean better lighting, inviting windows with street views and easy access for pedestrians and bus passengers.

Walmart has already held close to a dozen meetings to get a better idea of what it needs to build before it closes on the property, which is now owned by Travis Avenue Baptist Church.

Fernando Florez has been in those meetings, and he wants to make sure the 17-year plan for urban renewal is not compromised by variances for Walmart.

"It's going to be the catalyst for more development in the area, so it needs to be done right," Florez said.

Walmart unveiled new plans at a Jan. 11 zoning meeting and it plans to meet with the public on Tuesday, Jan. 24 to get feedback.

The building was a grocery store years ago when it was owned by Safeway. Natasha Salas remembers it being the center of her neighborhood, and she wants the same from Walmart so she can enjoy her front porch.

"We'll have traffic. We'll have people coming through. People looking up at the porch," Salas said. "I think Walmart will do a good job of being respectful to the neighbors."

Some neighborhood leaders have been told, if design and construction gets too expensive, the retail giant could move in without upgrading the old structure. It only has to abide by the urban village design standards if it creates a new footprint on the property.

If that happens, it would leave the Hemphill/Berry urban village without its centerpiece.

"No, that's not what we want," Florez said. "We want them to work with us to redesign slightly what they want to bring in there, and meet our urban village requirements."

The public meeting is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. at the proposed site, 717 W. Berry St.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com

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