When we’re not churning out fun and enlightening stories, many of our writers and editors unwind over a cold Bud Light or cocktail along West Magnolia Avenue. Maybe it’s the dearth of MAGA hats or the welcome company of local musicians and artists who live in nearby Fairmount that attracts us. Or maybe it’s the Boiled Owl’s $2.50 wells.
Since we spend a lot of time in and around the historic neighborhood, our news coverage often reflects that. So imagine our interest last week when we read a Star-Telegram piece about growing friction between “some Fairmount residents” who are worried about house flipper Jamey Ice’s 6th Ave Homes.
For the Fairmount unwashed, the piece read as sour grapes on the part of a few curmudgeon-y preservationists who are mad at a young whippersnapper’s attempt to turn a buck or two in Fairmount. Star-Telegram reporter Luke Ranker interviewed a few people and churned out a story that falls somewhere between “meh” and “passable” on the investigative reporting sliding scale.
In the piece, Ranker reported “one citation and one stop-work order for 6th Ave Homes projects.” However, our reporters found five city citations issued to 6th Ave Homes (or their former entity name, Ice & Williams) since 2017 in the Fairmount neighborhood. Those citations include stop-work orders and failures to obtain permits and two certificates of appropriateness (a requirement for building in historic districts). The city has also received 12 complaints related to 6th Ave Home projects in the Fairmount neighborhood. Ice’s company currently has 19 active permits within Fairmount.
We stopped by to chat with Ice at his 6th Ave Homes office on the Near Southside. Ice was forthcoming about his company’s past mistakes. 6th Ave Homes is learning from those missteps, Ice said.
“We love historic houses,” he said. “A lot of the rub has been with our crazy finish outs. I like bright colors. We paint stuff crazy colors. Our interiors are funky. Our insides are not traditionally historic. There has been a narrative that we come in and rip out historic things, and that’s not true.”
Fairmount resident John MacFarlane lives next door to an ongoing 6th Ave Homes project. Last fall, a company contracting with 6th Ave Homes struck a natural gas line, forcing nearby residents to be evacuated until Atmos Energy turned off the gas. Ice said that contractor is no longer working for 6th Ave Homes.
“We’ve hired great contractors, and we’ve hired some really bad ones,” Ice said.
MacFarlane shared emails with us that described how 6th Ave Homes contractors tore down his chainlink fence. The company later reimbursed him for the mistake. After MacFarlane sent city officials photos of construction that violated historic guidelines, including the use of composite wood along the roof of the home, the city ordered 6th Ave Homes to temporarily halt construction until a certificate of appropriateness was given.
Last September on South Adams Street, city staff noticed work being performed under contract by 6th Ave Homes that violated district guidelines. Later that month, code enforcement posted notices of violation on the property. 6th Ave Homes has sought a juried trial to settle the matter. According to the city, the date of that trial was last Monday. We will follow up on that story as more details become available.
Ice said his company now works closely with the city to ensure that his projects meet historic guidelines. His company has suffered undue criticism, he said, because of its prominence in the community.
Folks in that area would probably vote Ice “Most Likeable Fairmount Resident.” Of the several individuals who have voiced frustration to us over his projects, everyone seems to agree that Ice is congenial and good-natured. Ice plays guitar for the band Green River Ordinance, who have graced the Weekly’s cover, and the coffee shop/restaurant that he co-owns, Brewed, contributes to the surrounding neighborhood through fundraisers and community events. But those good vibes go only so far when 6th Ave Homes contractors break gas lines (Washington Avenue last fall) or build beyond permitted plans (Fairmount Avenue early 2018).
We should note that skimping on permits is far from rare. The three current and former Fairmount Neighborhood Association preservation officers we spoke with said they regularly field complaints about other contractors sidestepping historic guidelines or flouting permit requirements.
The concerns raised by these preservationists are symptomatic of a city that is going through growing pains. Some developers are keen to plop projects (often under the guise of “boutique” or “Fort Worth It”) wherever there’s money to be made. The fact that many of these projects try to infiltrate historically significant areas attests to the economic value and authenticity that these buildings and districts afford a city like Fort Worth.
There’s plenty of reason to be cynical about the fate of these areas, especially given the pro-business leanings of our mayor and several city councilmembers. Fort Worth has one full-time preservation officer to oversee around 6,000 historically significant structures and permitting in several historic districts. Dallas has several preservation staffers. Austin lists four on its website.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Property owners Steve and Philip Murrin have made preservation a top priority within the Stockyards. Local developer Brent Hyder is putting the finishing touches on his Arlington Heights Museum, which he hopes will revive interest in the historic neighborhood. The nonprofit Historic Fort Worth continues to be a wealth of historical knowledge for our community. They are also uncompromising proponents of preservation.
We are still confident that preservationists, community leaders, and other stewards of historic buildings will continue the fight against the Four Horsemen of the Preservation Apocalypse: the boutique hotel peddler, the “this will complement the neighborhood” swindler, the tax divestment investor, and the slumlord oligarch.