Stayin’ Alive in Linwood
This country’s most famous “survivor” may be that big naked guy who won $1 million but forgot to pay taxes and is now (presumably) wearing stripes in an Oklahoma pokey. But Cowtown’s favorite survivors for the moment are the denizens of Linwood, the working-class neighborhood adjacent to the fancily redone Montgomery Plaza. Inner-city renewal in Fort Worth, as elsewhere, means good things for many people, but it usually also means some poor folks are going to get their skinny oxes gored. This time, however, the non-rich folks may have won one.
Lo and behold, our own Mayor Mike Moncrief, despite that sparkly silver spoon tucked under his mustache, actually stood up for Linwood’s little guys at the July 18 city council meeting. He and council member Wendy Davis said, in effect, that the ‘hood had been screwed in the past, and they don’t want that to happen again. Their comments stood in distinct contrast to the attitude of some city staffers that Linwood probably couldn’t – and maybe shouldn’t – be saved from upscale redevelopment.
Local developer Phillip Poole was there representing James Ayres, an investor who wants to redevelop an entire block of Linwood as town homes. On June 14, city planning and zoning commissioners denied a request to change zoning on Ayres’ block, and Poole was at city hall in a last-ditch effort to convince the council to override that decision.
At the meeting, Davis said a lot of Linwood investors got their land through contracts for deed – a very stinky method of selling houses that greatly favors the seller – and that she doesn’t want investors who took people’s houses unfairly in the past to further profit by being able to develop the now-valuable land.
A hot-under-the-collar Ayres told Static that he’s not a slumlord, has never sold property through contracts for deed, and feels like he’s been lumped into a category where he doesn’t belong. Ayres is a resident of Linwood himself and a longtime owner of rent properties there.
Davis also said she wants Linwood residents to be able to continue living there affordably despite the developments that are turning the West Seventh Street corridor into a posh address. In the end, the city council denied Ayres’ request with prejudice, meaning he can try again next year.
Linwood leaders were ecstatic. They may still be in the path of an urban renewal storm, but – as with the tornado of 2000 and the flood of 1949 – they’ve lived to fight another day.