By Courtney Dabney
The historic Fort Worth Public Market building was originally developed by John J. Harden in 1930 on the edge of downtown. And it’s long been a subject of fascination in the city. Its architectural detailing and landmark tower ― including the semi-circular stairs leading to the entrance tower, its original stained glass windows designating it as “Public Market,” its ornate terra cotta detailing, linear arched windows and red tile roof ― certainly leave an impression. There is no other building quite like it in Fort Worth. What would become of the long deteriorating structure has been discussed and debated for decades.
Now that is coming into focus. Under a new proposed plan, it would continue to be a prominent Fort Worth calling card as it is transformed into a modern apartment community for active senior living tentatively named The Harden at Public Market, PaperCity Fort Worth has learned. The Downtown Design Review Board will hear the details in a meeting this afternoon.
The property’s current owner, Cisco-based Wilks Development, has been working to preserve the Public Market building’s historic structure while utilizing the existing acreage to its fullest potential. One of Wilks’ other notable projects, which has been wildly successful, is the Shops at Willow Park development along the I-20 frontage, between Fort Worth and Weatherford.
Under the new plans, the existing historic Public Market structure will be restored, and a new senior living development will wrap its southwest corner, backing up to I-30. There will be a single story parking garage and some 200, one and two-bedroom residential apartments above the garage.
The entire property will be connected by a fully landscaped outdoor greenspace and courtyard amenity for all residents. Additional amenities like a dog park and pickleball courts will be conveniently located just across Lake Street.
Inside the Public Market itself will be more amenities for the senior living residents, including the leasing office, a fitness center, co-working areas and a lounge. The public will have access to the building, through the original front entrance of The Public Market, to a cafe and coffee shop. After having it closed off for decades, the public will be able to enter the historic building and see its unique architecture once more.
The planning phase of the Public Market project has also included the development expertise of L2L Development Advisors partners Tom Purvis and Randy Gideon with site planning and architecture from BOKAPowell Architects, along with civil engineering and landscape architecture from Kimley-Horn, and branding from 6th Avenue Storytelling. All are local firms.
Fort Worth Public Market’s History
Fort Worth Public Market was originally intended for use by local farmers, vendors and businesses. Designed by B. Gaylord Noftsger, the unusual structure sits at 1400 Henderson Street, facing downtown beyond and is now backed by Interstate 30.
The Public Market building carries two historic designations, It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 (which protects it from demolition), and it is also a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark.
Opened at the beginning of the Great Depression, the market didn’t last long, closing a decade later in 1941. It housed various businesses over the years, but had fallen into disrepair by the time Bob Simpson purchased it in 2012 with plans for restoration. Simpson later decided the project’s challenges didn’t outweigh the costs. He sold it to Wilks Development.
Now, after decades of decay, this new plan proposes to give Fort Worth Public Market a new lease on life.