ArtsGoggle has become one of Fort Worth's most anticipated annual events. (Photo by Near Southside, Inc.).
Eric Inkala's mural at the Mag & May development. (Photo by Near Southside, Inc.).
Red Productions also calls Near Southside home.
A recent production at Amphibian Stage in honor of World Aids Day.
When you speak of the Cultural District in Fort Worth, it has always been understood to mean the juncture of University and Camp Bowie boulevards. The area is also known as the Museum District, where you’ll find the city’s premier museums ― The Amon Carter, The Kimbell and The Modern — all tied up in a bow. But another area of town is now in the running as well.
Fort Worth’s Near Southside has announced that it’s in the process of acquiring a cultural district designation of its own.
Near Southside, Inc. is preparing to apply for cultural district designation with Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA). If approved, this district will be the second designated cultural district in Fort Worth. There are currently only 36 such districts in the entire state of Texas.
The neighborhood was originally established in the early 20th century as a streetcar suburb with both swank and modest residential, filled in by warehouse and industrial businesses that fanned around Fort Worth’s hospital district.
The city’s long-forgotten asset ― 1,400 acres, just south of downtown ― has been polished up substantially in recent decades. It is now home to theaters, destination restaurants, artists, creatives and developers and has become a sought-after residential neighborhood once again.
“We produce free community events including ArtsGoggle and Friday on the Green to showcase local artists and performers, and to attract thousands of visitors to our neighborhood streets,” says Mike Brennan, president of Near Southside, Inc. “Those streets are as much of an attraction as anything else, and a key element in this designation initiative, with destinations like Magnolia Avenue, South Main and Park Place lined with local restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, and so much more.”
For more than 20 years, Near Southside, Inc., has focused on the redevelopment and preservation of the historic area, but it has quickly become Fort Worth’s most noteworthy destination for creativity. Near Southside is now recognized as Tarrant County’s second-largest employment center, with opportunities ranging from the major medical hubs to small businesses, and the economic impact of a cultural designation for the area could be significant.
“In many ways, Near Southside’s creative community has led the way in shaping our district and has created a special place that’s now attracting new residents, businesses and visitors from across the region and beyond,” Brennan says.
Jennifer Henderson, president of J.O. marketing agency, will lead the charge, serving as committee chair, along with Near Southside, Inc.’s 28-member cultural committee consisting of Near Southside business owners, civic leaders, arts institutions, and artists, who will be compiling the submission called Project Cultural District, this summer.
The cultural district designation will provide Near Southside with access to funding opportunities to attract more visitors and to invest in small or new businesses while continuing to build a sense of community.
“It’s always been a creative and eclectic district,” Henderson says. “We’ve come so far in 20 years. We already have the infrastructure and assets. The designation will provide us funding for growth and give us the ability to attract more visitors and artists to our area.”
The priority for the application is to establish the development of its cultural district goals, identity, mission and vision. Additionally, the committee will help create a five-year marketing plan and cultural plan that will coincide with Near Southside, Inc.’s current initiatives. Henderson has already identified some of the district’s top goals, which include:
— Highlighting the arts as an economic driver via data collection and advocacy.
— Supporting artists by developing affordable and diverse live and work spaces.
— Increasing opportunities for paid commissions, residencies, and exhibits.
— Attracting and retaining creative entrepreneurship.
— Continued promotion of locally owned businesses and locally focused cultural organizations.
— Establishing print and digital marketing assets to promote the district’s cultural offerings.
— Pursuit of partnerships with Fort Worth’s most established arts institutions to broaden the ecosystem and access offered to local creatives.
— Promotion of pedestrian activity via improved connectivity and user experiences.
— Balancing preservation and high-quality new construction to grow the district thoughtfully.
— Attracting visitors to experience and support Near Southside cultural assets.
“This designation would allow those organizations, artists, musicians, and business owners to publicize their efforts and attractions more broadly, and to pursue new opportunities for growth” Brennan says. “We know there is more excitement to come from our creative community, and this designation could play a big role in continuing the Near Southside’s momentum.”
The precise boundaries of the new cultural district are yet to be decided. As part of the application process, the Committee has initiated a public outreach effort for community input. To participate, take the survey at southsideculture.com/survey. For more information on the project, updates on the application status and volunteer opportunities, visit southsideculture.com.