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April 24, 2013

Southeast Fort Worth advocates hope new transit center is more than a glorified bus stop

Sierravista@gdickson

Beginning Thursday, four bus routes with nearly 800,000 combined riders annually will serve the new Sierra Vista Transit Center.

But southeast Fort Worth advocates hope the new facility at East Berry Street and Riverside Drive is much more than a glorified bus stop.

Instead, their goal is for the $500,000 transit center - paid for mostly with a federal grant - to become the centerpiece of a grander plan to convert the worn-down sector of Fort Worth into an urban village.

 "There's still a way to go on that, but with this transit center and opening of a Wal-Mart up the street we're starting to get that synergy going," Allen Smith, executive director of Southeast Fort Worth Inc., said Wednesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new center. "There's a great need in this area."

The Berry/Riverside neighborhood is one of about 16 areas identified by city officials as an urban village. The long-term goal is to create transit and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with a mix of commercial and residential uses that is attractive to developers.

Berry/Riverside has a lot going for it - including its geography. It rests just below the Rolling Hills neighborhood, with Cobb Park nearby and plenty of vacant land available for whatever uses might be suitable - perhaps another grocery store, a pharmacy, clothing shop or restaurants and family entertainment.

A developer, Vertex Asset Partners, L.P., plans to redevelop the former Oak Brook Mall site across the street from the transit center into modernized retail development, according to information on the city's urban village page.

But it's also a neighborhood that more than its share of run-down buildings - and a reputation, deserved or not, for crime and vagrancy.

"We certainly have the challenge of bringing in small businesses that can stay," said Andre McEwing, board secretary of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, also known as the T, and a long-time advocate for the area. "This community needs basic services." Mcewing2013_09web

But with Thursday's first official full day of service at the new Sierra Vista Transit Center, bringing foot traffic to the area shouldn't be a problem.

The area will be served by four bus routes, T president Dick Ruddell said. They include: Route 3 Riverside/TCC South campus; Route 5 Wichita/Glen Garden; Route 8 Riverside/Evans; and Route 24 Berry St.

Those four routes carry a combined 775,000 riders per year, T spokeswoman Joan Hunter said.

The bus transfers now to take place at the Sierra Vista Transit Center previously were handled at various stops along Riverside Drive, between Glen Garden and Berry, she said.

The plaza was partially funded by a $400,000 federal grant administered by the North Central Texas Council of Governments. Also, in 2006, Berry/Riverside urban village received an $823,571 federal grant to master plan the area and make street improvements along East Berry Street between Yuma and Sycamore Creek.

The Sierra Vista Transit Center will feature numerous pieces of public art, some of which are scheduled to be installed later in the year. The place also features a marker in memory of Monique Pegues, the T's longtime government affairs director who died unexpectedly in 2010.

Monique

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