As Home Buyers Flock In, Fort Worth Embraces Its Cowtown Reputation

Amy Mikler for The Wall Street Journal

When Maridon and Jason Grochowski found a vacant lot in Rivercrest Bluffs, a gated community in Fort Worth’s River District, they signed on the dotted line right away. But they knew they had a long wait ahead of them.

The nearly 15-acre development on the Trinity River still lacked streets, curbs, sewers and other infrastructure when they bought their land for $375,000 in 2014.

Last year, the Grochowskis finally moved into their 5,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home. With views of the bluff overlooking the river and access to the hiking trails from their backyard, “you have the feeling of being out in nature,” says Ms. Grochowski, 47, a stay-at-home mother of two children and a real-estate investor. But when she and her husband, a technology consultant, are craving steak from Del Frisco’s or heading to the Kimbell Art Museum for an exhibit, Fort Worth’s Sundance Square in downtown and cultural district are only five minutes away.

Maridon and Jason Grochowski’s home in Rivercrest Bluffs, a gated community in Fort Worth’s River District.

Amy Mikler for The Wall Street Journal

Young professionals and families are discovering the charms of Fort Worth, a city of about 875,000 people with deep roots in the cattle industry. In recent years, this Cowtown has gone Uptown with the rise of upscale condo developments and gated subdivisions offering high-end amenities. Professionals coming from pricey cities outside of Texas are looking for larger luxury homes with a “yard for their dog,” says real-estate agent Martha Williams, co-founder of Williams Trew in Fort Worth. “If they’ve been living in an apartment in New York or L.A., they want a more a residential setting.” Proximity to the city’s cultural district and the Trinity River Trail system is also a draw.

The Grochowski kitchen in the 5,000-square-foot house, built by Fort Worth-based Village Homes and completed last year.

Amy Mikler for The Wall Street Journal

In 2013, the average price of a luxury home, defined as the top 5% of the market, was $672,825, with 358 properties sold. Today, its $716,729, with 651 luxury properties sold in 2018, according to MLS data provided by John Giordano, a residential developer and an agent specializing in luxury properties with Giordano, Wegman, Walsh & Assoc. This does not account for private listings or land purchases for new construction, he adds.

But the market is cooling. With more inventory recently, “the prices are softening a bit, especially in the high-end market,” Ms. Williams says.

Ryan and Jessica Dodson moved from suburban Mansfield to the Colonial Hills neighborhood of Fort Worth last spring. They gut-renovated and built an addition onto a 1942 home they purchased for just over $1 million. The design, inspired by one-story California contemporary ranches, features a wing for the couple’s three school-aged children and a master wing for themselves.

Ryan and Jessica Dodson gut-renovated a 1942 home in Colonial Hills near Texas Christian University.

Justin Clemons for The Wall Street Journal

“I was fairly particular on what I wanted,” says Mr. Dodson, 42, of the 6,400-square foot home near Texas Christian University. “We wanted something we could renovate and make our own.” While Mr. Dodson, a commercial real-estate developer, won’t disclose the cost of renovations, similarly sized, newly renovated homes in the area cost around $2 million, according to

Those looking for new construction in the city are also buying in the Riverhills residential area and near the Clearfork development, an area that was once part of the historic Edwards Ranch, according to Mr. Giordano. New homes in Riverhills range from $800,000 to $3 million, and the development includes a Neiman Marcus department store and other luxury retailers as well as fine dining.

The Dodson kitchen includes a family heirloom table from Jessica’s grandmother.

Justin Clemons for The Wall Street Journal

For suburban-style homes, the gated Montserrat neighborhood on the city’s west side is another popular option because properties are still near the loop of Interstate 820 and offer an easy commute, says Mr. Giordano. The largest home on the market in the neighborhood is a 24,093-square-foot mansion, built in 2006, with an indoor pool and 13 living areas with traditional touches. It is listed for $7 million.

In the established Rivercrest neighborhood, Michael and Leigh Bornitz bought a French provincial-style house across from the River Crest Country Club for $600,000 in 2011 and spent 1½ years on renovations.

Leigh and Michael Bornitz purchased a home in 2008 and completed a 1 1/2-year renovation. The home has a French country-style exterior with a built-in ornamentation over the doorway.

Justin Clemons for The Wall Street Journal

Ms. Bornitz, a 41-year-old interior designer, says she took some risks with the décor. “The entry hall is lacquered green—I don’t think I can talk a client into those color combinations,” she says. Throughout the home she used bright wall colors, intricate woodwork and eclectic mix of vintage and modern furniture. In the kitchen, she had the original ’70s steel cabinets from St. Charles of New York repainted with a beige automotive finish to create a retro feel. Outdoors, she used vintage brick and a fountain to create a Savannah-inspired courtyard.

James, the son of Leigh and Michael Bornitz, rides a scooter between the dining room and the sunroom. Ms. Bornitz, an interior designer, experimented with colors and textures throughout the home.

Justin Clemons for The Wall Street Journal

Some sellers are capitalizing on demand for turnkey properties from out-of-state buyers who don’t have time to build. In the fall, Tiffany Figueiredo says she put her 3,800-square-foot home on the market for $1.2 million and it sold in 2½ months for close to asking price. The buyers, an-out-of-state couple, purchased most of the furniture as well. The contemporary home was built in 2011 a few minutes’ drive from the town’s Cultural District, home to institutions such as the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Ms. Figueiredo, 49, who works as a travel adviser, downsized into a condo she previously used as a rental property.

A Venetian-themed wallpaper adds color to the guest room.

Justin Clemons for The Wall Street Journal

Lately, interest has broadened to land on the outskirts of Fort Worth’s more established neighborhoods. Steve Halliday, a commercial architect, purchased “a weird triangular lot” south of downtown Fort Worth to be close to his office in Fairmount for $30,000. To fit the layout of the land, he designed the home around a triangular swimming pool and spent another $130,000 on construction. “We used geometry to connect the lots and the lot lines disappeared,” says Mr. Halliday, who lives there with his wife and two children. Inside he created an open-plan living area with black granite countertops and black custom cabinets in the kitchen. In addition to the main home, Mr. Halliday, 39, built a separate structure for his mother-in-law to provide privacy.

For him, living close to the historic Fairmount neighborhood with restaurants and arts is key. “It’s a walkable neighborhood with more of an urban connection,” he says.

A Thing or Two about Fort Worth

Fort Worth started as just that—a fort. It was an Army outpost built in 1849 to protect the American frontier. Here, drovers trailed more than four million cattle through the city, earning it the name “Cowtown.” But that is all changing.

Exchange Avenue in the city’s historic Stockyards connects with its opposite pole, historic Magnolia Avenue. Both hangouts have vastly different characters crowding the streets on a Saturday night, but both were revitalized in recent years with their heritage in mind.

At the Stockyards cowboys and tourists grab a steak at Cattlemen’s Steak House and a dance at the colossal honky-tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas. On Magnolia, a passerby may spot a Range Rover parked in front of Craftwork Coffee, where two bearded men likely coiffed at the ever-popular Fort Worth Barber Shop step out for a vegan latte.

On Jan. 19, the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, one of the city’s oldest traditions, will take place for the last time in the beloved Will Rogers Coliseum—and event planners titled “Old School Cool.” In 2020, for the first time in 75 years, sparkling Dickies Arena will host the event.

Here, some spectators can be seen quaffing beer and eating a corn dog, while others sip Champagne in box seats while wearing an heirloom fur coat and $5,000 boots custom-made by Northside’s M.L. Leddy’s. It’s the spirit of Fort Worth wrapped up in one place.

—Jocelyn Tatum

The post As Home Buyers Flock In, Fort Worth Embraces Its Cowtown Reputation appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Source: Housing Trends Feed



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