Fort Worth City Council recently approved construction of a six-story, 138-room hotel along West Magnolia Avenue despite opposition by hundreds of locals (“Looming Development,” Jan. 18). Nearly 500 individuals signed an online petition against the project. Topping the list of public concerns is the hotel’s large size and potential impact on nearby traffic and flooding.
Residents in nearby Historic Fairmount said their concerns were heard, but no design concessions were made.
The revitalization nonprofit group Near Southside Inc. has been a proponent of the $60 million project, working closely with the hotel’s backers: Fort Worth-based Bennett Benner Partners, California-based BOND Partners, and the property owners.
Pat Bradley, president of the Fairmount Neighborhood Association, said she was shocked that City Councilmembers Ann Zadeh and Kelly Allen Gray did not recuse themselves from the January 24 vote. Both councilmembers sit on the board of Near Southside Inc.
“Ann Zadeh, I feel, turned her back on us and the Near Southside,” Bradley said. “I didn’t realize how closely [City Council and Near Southside Inc.] work together. They are one and the same. It’s very disturbing.”
Councilmember Zadeh said in an email that there was no conflict of interest when she voted to allow construction of the hotel.
“I am an ex-officio board member of” Near Southside Inc., she said, referring to her role as a non-voting member, a seat that councilmembers in District 9 have traditionally held. “My purpose for being on the board is for information only.”
The question before the council, she added, was not whether the property owner could build on his property. He could. The question was whether he would be “allowed to build a hotel.”
Councilmember Gray did not return requests for comment in time for publication.
Fairmount resident Sara Karashin said that Zadeh and Mike Brennan, Near Southside Inc.’s planning director, haven’t released projections on how the hotel will impact nearby flooding and traffic.
Brennan said a traffic study was not completed or required but that Fort Worth traffic engineer Brian Jahn worked closely with Near Southside Inc. to examine the potential impact of the hotel on traffic. Jahn did not find any cause for concern, Brennan said.
As the hotel’s final design process continues, Brennan added, the hotel developers will work with the Fort Worth Stormwater Management Department to conduct a comprehensive stormwater study.
Karashin is appreciative of the role Near Southside Inc. plays in developing the area and hosting events like Friday on the Green and ArtsGoggle. But she worries the new hotel represents a departure from the nonprofit’s traditional focus on small businesses and residents.
“I want to know Near Southside [Inc.] still represents the Near Southside,” she said.