• Cyburbia is a fun, friendly, big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no echo chambers. Create your FREE Cyburbia ID, and join us today! Register through your Reddit, Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Microsoft account, or use your email address.

Preservation When to abolish historic designation

Doohickie

Cyburbian
Messages
1,721
Points
26
Fort Worth moves to abolish Stop Six historic district

Hoping to attract more development to the Stop Six area, the Fort Worth City Council is taking steps to remove the historic district that regulates building design in the neighborhood.
Stop Six is a historically African American neighborhood; the original settlement was rural with several African American families establishing farms in the area. Access to the settlement, originally called Cowanville after one of the families to settle the area, was by means of the sixth stop on the Dallas-Fort Worth interurban train line so it became known as Stop Six.

The historic district was established twelve years ago, with the hopes that the success of Fort Worth's Fairmount Historic District could be repeated, but development in Stop Six actually slowed under the historic designation. This week, the Fort Worth City Council voted to abolish the district.

I know a lot of people seek to preserve the history of a given area whenever possible. Has any of you encountered a situation where historic preservation rules were rolled back?
 
Last edited:

Bubba

Cyburbian
Messages
4,832
Points
28
Putting on my historic preservation professional hat for a few minutes (I actually am a SOI-qualified architectural historian - I just don't break that out too much on message boards), and without knowing anything about this other than what is in the thread-starter, there are a couple of things about this that make me uncomfortable:

- Development/redevelopment in and of itself is not a reason for any level of historic designation. Can it be a legitimate reason for considering it? Sure, but ultimately structures or districts are designated as historic because, you know, they are definable (and defendable) as historic under whichever criteria (local/state/Fed) is in play.

- You gotta do some serious 'splaining to me to get me to understand removal of a historic designation without something obvious like a loss of integrity.
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
11,419
Points
39
I think that's pretty bad to un-designate - to be cynical, they used the lack of re-development as an wexcuse to likely get rid of a district they didn't want in the first place

renovation takes time - I make the argument that historic districts help economic development and not hinder it - that's really too bad
 

Doohickie

Cyburbian
Messages
1,721
Points
26
- You gotta do some serious 'splaining to me to get me to understand removal of a historic designation without something obvious like a loss of integrity.
Did you look at the linked article? It talks about the city's reasoning.

According to city data, the city reviewed 166 building permit applications between 2007 and May 2016. From 2001-2006, the city reviewed 142 applications...

The decision to remove the historic district comes after the city surveyed the area’s properties in October. According to a city staff report, more than 68 percent of the properties are considered “non-contributing,” meaning the property is either vacant land, a structure built after the mid-20th century or a structure that has gone through a significant alteration, therefore losing its historical character.
I'm not as familiar as you are with the ins and outs of preservation, but what I get from that is that the historical designation was pretty weak to begin with (only 32% of the area being historic), and that part of the reason they made the designation was to spur development, and it's had the opposite effect.

I think that's pretty bad to un-designate - to be cynical, they used the lack of re-development as an wexcuse to likely get rid of a district they didn't want in the first place

renovation takes time - I make the argument that historic districts help economic development and not hinder it - that's really too bad
The city understands that, which is why I linked to to the Fairmount District. That area took about 30 years to come around. But right from the start there was a groundswell of support for the historic preservation in Fairmount. My understanding is that most of the people in Stop Six don't necessarily want the designation, at least not over the whole wider area. The report states, "...the city will also consider creating a “discontiguous district,” or several small districts within the area." I think they attempted to use the historic designation as a fix for a problem area, based on their experience in Fairmount (which was also a problem area), but they didn't see the same result.

One of the differences between Fairmount and Stop Six is race. It's a complicated factor. Even in today's day and age, it's more difficult for African American people to get loans to finance development in primarily African American neighborhoods. But even then, other areas of Fort Worth that are primarily African American (such as Como and the Historic Southside) are on the rise. Stop Six is generally regarded as a "bad part of town" that maybe isn't even worth trying to save (at least in the opinions of some).

Maybe the bigger question is what to do about blighted areas of a city?
 

Bubba

Cyburbian
Messages
4,832
Points
28
Did you look at the linked article? It talks about the city's reasoning.
Nope, hadn't had a chance to read the article (I'm trying to act like I'm still actually working here for the next four days before moving on to the next gig), but this sounds like one of two things (or both):

- The city or their consultants might have done a questionable job on the front end justifying the historic designation (although I don't want to cast stones without having all of the background)...or there were reasons for going with the district designation when they possibly would have been better off with something akin to a multiple property designation in the area (if the local regs included that) instead of a straight-up historic district.

- There's been something since the designation that caused the district's contributing structures to go from +50% to 32% (i.e. the loss of integrity I referred to above), which speaks to a larger problem with the local regs themselves.
 

Doohickie

Cyburbian
Messages
1,721
Points
26
I would think, from my reading of the issue, the first is what happened. The city has whatever toolbox of methods for "shaping" a given area. The historic designation worked like a charm for Fairmount which was a blighted area in the 1970s-80s, so maybe it will work for Stop Six too.

Twelve years later the city says, "Oops. Maybe not."

I mentioned some other areas, Como and Historic Southside. The thing is, those areas abut other areas that are not near as blighted. Como was a "historically black" community that is in the middle of the affluent west side. Historic Southside is just east of the aforementioned Fairmount. They're easy reaches from decent neighborhoods. My cycling group rides through those areas on occasion. It feels relatively safe.

To get to Stop Six you have to go through increasingly sketchy areas before finally getting to Stop Six. It isn't just a pocket of sketchiness next to a good area (like many sketchy areas in Fort Worth); it is the culmination of sketchiness. It's peak sketchy.

To look at it another way, that's the part of town that people displaced by gentrification go. You want to take that away from them, too? When you kick out all the drug dealers, they have to end up somewhere, right?

So if you're a civic leader, how do you "save" an area like that?
 
Last edited:

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
11,419
Points
39
I liked the idea of specific building designation as that means at least some of the buildings could be preserved?
 

Doohickie

Cyburbian
Messages
1,721
Points
26
I suspect that will be the end result. Stop Six Sunrise Edition (the specific area mentioned) has some dense single family ("city lots") housing (like Fairmount) but also has large swaths of land that are not as dense and still with some agricultural use. It's not uncommon to see people riding horses in that area.... really. If you compare it to the surrounding areas, the density is much lower. I think for the parts of Stop Six that are dense, with older homes still intact, there will be some kind of historical designation. But where the density is less, and homes have already been modified or new homes built (which I think is more common in rural areas), there will be no historic overlay.

I can see why the city wrestles with what to do with this area: It's an African American urban-agricultural, high-crime, historical area. They tried the historical district idea in Stop Six Sunrise Edition and it doesn't seem to be working. Here's what Fort Worth is trying to do for the neighboring Historic Stop Six area: Stop Six Neighborhood Improvement Strategy. Note that Fort Worth has historic districts, urban villages, form-based overlays, etc., but Stop Six is the first and (so far) only area of the city that has a "Neighborhood Improvement Strategy." To me it indicates the city is struggling mightily about what to do with its southeast quadrant. They seem to be throwing all conceivable strategies at that part of the city, with few positive results.

Because of the African American heritage of this area, it becomes difficult to separate race from the situation. Most of the city leadership is white. How much help to offer? How much help to impose? I think there is a basic mistrust of government fueled by the race barrier, which makes it hard for the district to accept the aid being provided. It's a sticky situation.
 

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
11,419
Points
39
Well, you make excellent points - the base being that any re-investment in a community has to come from the ground up - that is, the residents and property owners and business community there has to want to see it happen and work to make it happen - government can take the lead by designations and streetscape improvements and low interest façade loans/grants but success only happens if the people that are there want it
 

ChairmanMeow

Cyburbian
Messages
54
Points
3
Full disclosure- haven't had time to read the whole article yet.

Not all historic districts are in "good" neighborhoods. Not all of them are cute or quaint. I think sometimes people have a hard time with that idea, and so the concept of what historic designation does for an area can get a little fuzzy.
 

Doohickie

Cyburbian
Messages
1,721
Points
26
TL;DR version: City tried to give a shot in the arm to a historically African American neighborhood by declaring it a historic district and it had the opposite effect: development decreased. So now they're getting rid of it.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,299
Points
43
I read the article and have a few questions and things that should be considered...

1) What exactly is it that the City and the Neighbors want to preserve within the neighborhood? Is it the cultural heritage of the area, and is so, how significant are the structures to that heritage?
2) Are there ways to write in regulations to limit the restrictions to vacant lots and have infill development to be generally consistent with the surrounding structures?
3) Is the historic district regulations really the factor limiting development within the area?
4) Are there general law regulations in place to address some of the other issues such as blight issues?

Historic preservation is not one fix-all solution for every case and when it is, it is not a super quick stabilization method. However it is a great method to preserve infrastructure that tells the story of a place and limits incomparable development. It all comes back to what do they want to preserve.
 

Doohickie

Cyburbian
Messages
1,721
Points
26
1) To be honest, I'm not sure. I mean there are old houses and stuff, but considering their humble origins I'm not sure they should be preserved. I think what's unique about the area that has the historic designation is that there are larger plots of land, even acreage, in an area surrounded by dense suburban/urban dwellings. I mean look around from this link: Would you expect this kind of land use in the inner core* of the 16th largest city in the country? (*inner core = inside Loop 820)
2) That I can answer as a Yes, because that's what they did in Fairmount.
3) It's implied but no, I'm not sure there's a direct cause-effect there. The institution of the district was just prior to the 2008 market crash so that could have been the driver.
4) Yes, but there's also a question of funding and enforcement. In my observation, the city will respond to consistent requests from residents about issues in a given neighborhood, but is less likely to do so if no one is making a stink about it (squeaky wheel), or if there are conflicting groups (not wanting to pick sides). I think the voices out of Stop Six are not very strong or united, to be honest.
 
Top