Fort Worth

Vision 2020: Near Southside Embodies Fort Worth's Shifting Population & Culture

In the continuing series Vision 2020, NBC5 is taking a closer look at the changing face of the DFW Metroplex, and what's coming next. Fort Worth was recently named the sixth fastest growing large city in the country. One neighborhood embodies just how quickly the population and culture there are evolving.

NBC 5 tagged along with some of the creative young business leaders who are pushing the Near Southside into the future.

35 new businesses have opened in the district this past year alone, with 36 more set to open within the next year.

Craftwork Coffee Co. is one of the new storefronts lining the main drag, Magnolia Avenue.

"It's kind of like the entrepreneurial hub for Fort Worth," said Craftwork Founder and CEO Riley Kiltz.

It's that spirit that made Kiltz choose the Near Southside for his hybrid coffee shop and co-working space for even newer start-up ventures.

Kiltz pointed out a few of the new businesses: "A screenplay writer, we have Gabe Williams, of Davi the shoe company I mentioned, Blake works for an organization that he does development for."

They’re young entrepreneurs working side by side to bring their unique contributions to Fort Worth.

To Craftwork, that means starting at the source by roasting their own coffee. The labor of love includes hand-sorting beans to preserve flavor.

"The coffee is the best it's ever going to be at origin,” said Craftwork Coffee’s Head Roaster Josh Tyer. “Then it's processed. As it's roasted, as it's brewed, it's losing a little bit of its complexity."

You could say the same for the neighborhood. There are fears that more development will strip away the original character of the community, that's weathered more than a century of boom and bust.

"There's always change. Change is inevitable," said Jennifer Farmer of F5 Design Build.

Farmer is one developer helping guide that change, through the 'adaptive reuse' of old buildings.

"It's part of the fabric of the community," Farmer said, while standing inside her latest project.

It’s an old warehouse on up-and-coming Bryan Avenue that’s transforming into a four-tenant space including Black Cat Pizza and Funky Picnic Brewery and Cafe. Again the businesses moving in are small, local and different.

"A lot of the businesses are people that have had long-term dreams and they're going to be here and they're interested in collaborating with others in the community," Farmer said.

It's not happening by accident. The community group Near Southside, Inc. has been plotting a careful path to revitalization for decades.

"We're not done yet,” said Near Southside’s President Mike Brennan. “There's so much work left to be done but we're at this point where we can start to see the pieces coming together."

And they know what's coming next, like a new apartment complex, bringing hundreds of residents from all over the country.

Longer-term business owners, like Casey Kha of Shinjuku Station and Cannon Chinese, have watched those new faces shift the culture of the neighborhood.

"Ten years ago, if we introduced sushi without cream cheese and avocado, we've had people get up and leave because there was no other way to eat sushi," Kha said. "People are more willing to try things, they're more open, they also bring everyone else's level of game up too."

People with a true stake in their community, sharing a vision for 2020 and beyond.

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