Fort Worth civic leaders saw potential for an urban village in the Six Points neighborhood. It had history, culture, diversity, and a great location northeast of downtown. It needed public infrastructure improvements and private investment to realize its potential as a mixed-use area with a sense of place.
Enter REALTOR® Will Northern, a commercial broker with Northern Realty Group. He represented a property owner who wanted to sell to a developer, and Northern understood the city’s vision for Six Points.
Welcome to Six Points
Six Points is roughly defined as the area between McLemore Avenue, Blevins Street, Noble Avenue, East Belknap Street and Oakhurst Scenic Drive.
In 2005, Fort Worth designated Six Points as an urban village with the goal of revitalizing the area. The city drafted a master plan in 2007 after conducting public meetings and market analysis.
Residents said the area faced challenges: It wasn’t pedestrian friendly and lacked lighting and housing inventory. There were blighted buildings and public safety issues. The area also needed street and drainage improvements.
Residents agreed that a future Six Points urban village should embrace key principles:
- Celebrating the area’s historic values and traditions
- Creating and maintaining living for working-class residents
- Creating an entertainment district
- Making the area pedestrian friendly
- Incorporating a Main Street/Deco urban and Texas oasis of landscape designs.
Envisioning an Urban Village
The area south of Race Street between Sylvania Avenue and Riverside Drive presented the greatest opportunity to create an urban village realization, according to the master plan. It had common area parking lots, enough land for an anchor site and village public plaza, and plans for mixed-use development.
That’s the area where Northern’s client owned property.
To sell the property, Northern needed to showcase what Six Points could become. He delved into the city’s documents and found zoning maps and renderings. He found older urban village studies. Northern pulled these pieces together to make his marketing materials.
He then worked to identify suitable buyers who shared the same vision as the city and community stakeholders. Northern’s efforts led to the property owner and Criterion Development Partners in September 2013 executing a two-phase contract to develop the property. Phase I included an apartment complex, and Phase II included an entertainment district. However, Phase II wouldn’t close until the city made some improvements.
Negotiations and Construction
Fort Worth voters approved $6 million for street and transportation improvements for urban villages as part of the 2014 Bond Program. Unfortunately, $6 million wasn’t enough to improve all 16 proposed villages. Developers had to apply and compete for the money to be awarded to their projects.
Northern and Criterion shared their dream for Six Points with city officials. They said improving the area would make development lucrative and beneficial to the community. They proposed workforce housing, lighting, and a public art installation.
“I represented the two parties and facilitated the real estate deal,” Northern says. “Criterion handled the negotiations with the city of Fort Worth. I helped tell the story of what could be and shared the information that the city told developers.”
The city backed up its commitment to Six Points by dedicating a large chunk of the bond money, as well as a Federal Highway Administration grant, toward Race Street. That money would reconfigure traffic and add the city’s first back-in angled parking. Those funds would also go toward lighting, bike lanes, wide sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, and landscaping.
“Six Points received bond money with the rationale of, ‘Here’s this incredible project. Let’s make a real impact that will be a real catalyst for the area,’” Northern says.
“Criterion built the apartment complex in tandem with the city doing street construction, but there was a significant amount of time between when we closed on the land and when they started construction. That’s when they were negotiating with the city and when the city was negotiating with other private property owners along Race Street to secure rights-of-way for the back-in parking. That’s why the transaction for Phase II took so long to close,” Northern says.
In 2019, Criterion began leasing the mixed-use apartment complex, The Union at River East. It included retail and commercial spaces as well as studio and one- and two-bedroom units, according to the developer’s website.
After nearly five years of planning, competition for funding, and construction, Six Points was developed. With the city’s commitment fulfilled, Criterion could focus on closing on Phase II and complete the vision and planning for a proposed entertainment district, now called River East.
Northern also provided commercial leasing when Criterion purchased buildings lining the north side of Race Street—many of which were purchased out of foreclosure—to include in River East’s master plan. Northern was able to bring tenants to the table, providing an anchor and office tenants that otherwise would have relocated elsewhere.
“Price points have gone up,” Northern says. “Rent rates have gone up. Business is up. All the people living in single-family homes immediately around the mixed-use zone are now living that urban village lifestyle. They are walking from their house to the businesses, the restaurants, the shops.”
Today, Phase I’s apartment complex is almost fully occupied, the streets have been rebuilt, and Phase II has closed. Northern has since merged with another company and rebranded as WNC Commercial.
“Truly, we just created an urban village,” Northern says. “Before there were a bunch of rundown buildings, and no one wanted to be there. But because of a public-private partnership and a lot of money and a vision, we now have a thriving urban village that is successful.”