Arthouse theater update: Fort Worth City Council clears landing path

Fort Worth arthouse theater Spiral Diner

The Fort Worth City Council cleared a landing spot on Tuesday night for a proposed arthouse theater in the historic Evans-Rosedale corridor in southeast Fort Worth, unanimously approving a rezoning to allow alcohol sales for on-premise consumption at an old mortuary.

The council voted 9-0 to approve the recommendation two weeks ago of the Fort Worth Zoning Commission. The rezoning of the site at 821 E. Terrell Ave., owned by developers Jennifer Neil and Robb Farmer, allows alcohol sales for consumption at a theater, cinema, café, or restaurant. It's the latest proposed project to emerge in the Evans-Rosedale corridor, across Interstate 35W from the Near Southside and viewed by the development community as a logical extension of the Southside.

“I just want to give a shoutout to the Farmers for making this happen,” Council member Kelly Allen Gray, whose district includes the former Pinkston mortuary at 821 E. Terrell Ave., said in making the motion to approve the rezoning.

The Farmers characterized the vote as the “first step” in determining whether the arthouse theater, a long-dreamed-of proposed project by Amy McNutt and James Johnston, owners of the Spiral Diner in Fort Worth, will work at their site.

“We are all very optimistic,” Jennifer Farmer said after the council vote.

Next steps include “working on the financial pieces of the project and planning,” Farmer, who with her husband, runs the F5designBuild firm in Fort Worth. “We haven’t started the planning process.”
Still to be determined is the financial structure – whether, for example, McNutt and Johnston become partners or tenants in the project. “That is still to be determined,” Farmer said.

The Farmers bought the Pinkston in 2016 and were cleaning the building up and moving forward with plans to convert the shell to a restaurant and retail spaces when McNutt and Johnston approached them in December about their arthouse theater project idea. McNutt and Johnston have tried to land the theater on Fort Worth’s Near Southside, but lack of parking has consistently surfaced as an issue.

McNutt, in an interview after the zoning commission vote, said the site is ideal in that it's large enough to expand the 12,000-square-foot building to allow multiple theaters and still provide enough parking.
The case drew the support of the Southeast Fort Worth, Inc., and Near Southside, Inc. economic development nonprofits, and the Historic Southside neighborhood association.