Fort Worth’s Neighborhood Empowerment Zones (NEZ) program is credited with saving several neighborhoods, but could come to an end in some popular areas.
Fort Worth’s Magnolia Village area is one of the most popular spots in the city, but that wasn’t always the case. In the ‘80s the area was dotted with empty buildings and was punctuated with problems.
“We had some XXX movie theaters. We had maybe 15 or 16 bars and we had some strip joints,” David Motheral explained.
Motheral was there for the first steps of revitalization.
“I went to the bank in the neighborhood and asked for a loan and they said ‘no we don't loan in this terrible neighborhood,’ he said.
Motheral, a developer, eventually saw revitalization take off with help from the city. Later, Neighborhood Empowerment Zones arrived.
Those looking to develop in an NEZ have certain fees waived and help with some liens.
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Motheral said Magnolia was used as a guide.
“Take that model and stamp it out and see rehabilitation in these other areas,” he said.
There are currently 20 zones, but now the Magnolia, Berry University and Trinity Park zones are up for possible termination. Many in those areas say that would be a major mistake. “You would have gotten the job done 50% and then the city walks away and the rest never gets redone,” Motheral said. They fear that smaller developers would shy away from these areas without the NEZ incentives. “We need to fill out the rest of this neighborhood that need to be development. We have lots of pockets that aren't really developed yet,” Motheral said. “There is no argument that this program has worked,” Fort Worth Neighborhood Services Department director, Aubrey Thagard said. “When we look at actually saying OK the program has done its job and it's now time for the market to basically take care of the rest of the mission,” Thagard said. Thagard said the areas have far exceeded their initial property values. One area saw an approximate 200 percent increase and the Magnolia Village area went up more than 180 percent. “These areas have peaked in dollar value over this arbitrary number that was established way back when,” Motheral argued. City Council agreed to postpone a decision until December 12, but meetings with those affected communities are being planned. More on Neighborhood Empowerment Zones: http://fortworthtexas.gov/neighborhoods/NEZ/