West Magnolia Avenue: Fort Worth, Texas
Magnolia Avenue is the centerpiece revitalization project of the Near Southside — a historic, mixed-use district located just south of downtown Fort Worth, Texas. Through a variety of efforts, Magnolia Avenue is contributing to the overall health of the community by making walking to services, retail, restaurants, and green space more accessible.
Magnolia’s revitalization story begins in the 1980s, when passionate community members saw the potential in the neglected street that runs along the northern edge of the Fairmount Southside Historic District. Historic buildings along Magnolia were in varying stages of disrepair, but renovations on a few key buildings had begun. These community members partnered with the City of Fort Worth to construct the first in a series of streetscape beautification projects that led to new brick sidewalks, lights, trees, benches, and parallel parking.
Since then, Magnolia has become a street designed for all users, beginning in part with a 2008 “rightsizing” project when the street was converted from four to two travel lanes, and a center turn lane and bike lanes were added. Dedicated crosswalks were later installed and, in the most recent update, traffic lights were switched to blinking red to further slow vehicular traffic.
Magnolia is also a walkable street, with short (200-foot) grid-pattern blocks. In addition, a 2008 form-based code ensures that new construction in the Near Southside conforms to urban design principles that create an inviting and engaging streetscape.
Noting a lack of green space along Magnolia Avenue, community development nonprofit Near Southside Inc. (NSI) teamed up with community organizations in 2016 to create a MicroPark on a section of undeveloped land on Magnolia. Built to be a temporary public space filled with art, picnic tables, and interactive features for children, the project was heavily used by neighborhood residents.
Inspired by the success of the temporary park, the new hotel and condo development now being constructed on the MicroPark site was designed to include a public park and plaza. The success of the MicroPark also inspired NSI and a local design firm to team up to host Fort Worth’s first PARK(ing) Day on Magnolia Avenue in September 2018 as part of a focus on creating small public spaces in urban environments.
The Magnolia Avenue of today reflects the economic diversity of the district as a whole. Located in the heart of the Medical District, Magnolia counts a range of professions and businesses including advertising agencies, architects, and real estate agents alongside restaurants, bars, retail, and salons, most of them locally owned. Magnolia Avenue is also home to educational and nonprofit agencies including the Fort Worth ISD’s World Languages Institute, the first secondary school for students from the Spanish Immersion and Dual Language Enrichment programs.
The rapid pace of investment and development activity on Magnolia and throughout the Near Southside district is a clear indication that the strategies of placemaking, walkability, urban design, and a strong culture of support for local business are paying off. Overall, 30 years of steady investment and improvements have ensured access and safety for residents, workers, and visitors.
Defining Characteristics and Features
- Twice a year, Magnolia Avenue is closed to vehicle traffic for major community festivals. ArtsGoggle, the annual arts festival produced by community development nonprofit Near Southside Inc. (NSI), is one of the largest arts festivals in the region with more than 800 artists and dozens of live music performances attracting over 50,000 attendees. The event is free to the public, and participation fees are kept low to make this an inclusive festival for artistic expression. In the spring, Open Streets offers free, family-friendly activities, and one side of the street is declared a “Roll Zone” for bicycles, skateboards, scooters, roller skating, and more.
- Arts and culture figure prominently on Magnolia. Murals, sculptures, and temporary art projects can be found along the street, and demonstrations at glass art studio SiNaCa Studios are free for the public to observe.
- NSI created a Small Business Council so that business owners along Magnolia and throughout the district can stay informed and work together to plan events or address shared challenges.
- A bus line connects riders to a regional rail network at the nearby T&P Station, which provides transportation to and from suburban rail stations, Dallas, and soon to DFW airport.
By the Numbers
- Sixty-nine locally owned businesses currently operate on the street, 83 percent of which have opened since 2006.
- This stretch of Magnolia is home to 26 restaurants, 24 of which are locally owned or DFW-based.
- Five creative firms have their offices on Magnolia, including ad agencies and an architecture firm.
- Three B-Cycle Bike Share stations provide spots to rent a bike.
- Since 2008, the total value of development permits increased 94 percent compared with the three years prior to the form-based code’s adoption. Notably, this was during the economic downturn years of 2008–10.
Magnolia Avenue from 8th Avenue to Hemphill Street, a three-quarter mile stretch.