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On weekends and holidays, 10,000 revelers or more pack the West 7th corridor. Courtesy Facebook

Four of the Top 10 bars that sell the most alcohol per month in Fort Worth sit within a few blocks of one another in the tightly packed West 7th corridor. Often lost in heated discussions about parking woes, late-night noise, and sporadic crime is the fact that the area is an economic powerhouse that drives city and county revenues while sending bartenders home with hundreds of dollars each on weekends.

From dusty, industrial-zoned fields and run-down buildings, Phase 1 of Crockett Row — the central but by no means only development in the corridor — was completed just 13 years ago. Since then, the mixed-use project has seen significant business turnover and an undaunted willingness by new owners to try their luck in the area that spans only five city blocks.

There’s nothing quite like it. The district generally outlined by University Drive and West 7th is sluggish during the week yet hopping on weekends and holidays with more than 10,000 late-night revelers. The corridor’s businesses have adapted to the extremes, and many have thrived.

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But change is on the way. A new $250 million development under construction just northwest of the West 7th corridor in the Cultural District will offer mixed-use businesses, a boutique hotel, restaurants, and luxury apartments by the end of 2023. Local developer John Goff is funding the project that aims to bring hundreds of new residents and potentially thousands of daily visitors to the tightly packed area.

And there’s more. In January, Goldenrod Companies announced a new mixed-use commercial and residential project. The $80 million Van Zandt (2816 W. 7th St.) will add space for offices, apartments, retail, and dining to the northwest corner of Foch and West 7th streets.

City officials have a keen interest in development and public safety in the corridor. A June 13 meeting of city officials, police, and West 7th business owners may have been called by well-monied developers and city officials to try to temper the rowdy bars along Foch that some see as a liability for future investment. Entertainment districts like Dallas’ Deep Ellum and Austin’s 6th Street are similarly balancing business interests with public safety, and business owners in Deep Ellum and 6th Street may offer insight into what crime-related measures do and don’t work.

In private conversations, West 7th bar owners tell us that local police presence is critically important but dwindling. Filling that vacuum is an environment that invites lewd behavior and outright violence. The June rape of a woman near Texas Republic is part of a stream of stories of assault, gunplay, and drugs coming from the corridor, but those headlines, numerous bar owners tell us, often drown out progress and the extra effort by bar owners and staffers to protect customers from predators.

Another topic we’ll explore is the use of off-duty police in the area. Based on the Fort Worth police’s general orders, hired off-the-clock officers are required to wear their uniform. The off-duty cops, who earn around $75 an hour running security for West 7th bars, are also required by police rules to provide services as they would on “their normal tour of duty.” Bar owners tell us that many off-duty officers, while working in uniform, appear reluctant to address scofflaws in plain sight but outside the bars where the officers have been hired.

For the indefinite future, our magazine will take a deep dive into one of the most consequential communities in Fort Worth. As part of our Inside West 7th series, you’ll see bylines from many of our regular writers. Public safety, traffic and parking, the ongoing battle about noise, and the steps West 7th business owners and city officials are taking to address concerns will be central themes of our reporting as we analyze the past, present, and future of the West 7th corridor.

Have news tips or ideas for us? Email Editor Anthony Mariani at Anthony@FWWeekly.com.

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