A renovation proposal for the Fort Worth Stockyards’ horse and mule barns, 122-124 East Exchange Avenue, received approval Tuesday at the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission meeting, with the exception that developers work with city staff to make adjustments to the renovation plans.

The proposed alterations to the horse and mule barns include the addition of glass windows and door openings all around the structure, as well as canopies over the openings on the building’s south elevation. The north elevation will be renovated to accommodate storefront retail space, with transparent glass windows that would allow customers to see inside.

Some members of the Historic and Cultural Landmarks Commission expressed concern that the glass would make the north elevation look too much like a storefront and lose its historic character, so the commission motioned to approve the project with the caveat that developers and city staff discuss ways to reduce the number of openings added to the building.

“It definitely loses a lot of its historical foundation with all of those openings,” commission member Eric Brooks said. “I was just wondering if there is a way to just lighten that up because it looks like a storefront. It looks like a storefront. Just a regular storefront.”

Historic preservation consultant Libby Willis, who was the former executive director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation of Fort Worth, said she approves of the rest of the renovation project. However, she fears the storefronts will make the structure look less like horse and mule barns.

“We just don’t ever want to close out the option to sometimes have those used as barns again,” she said. “That’s the whole key, is keeping your options open. That’s what you want to do with historic buildings.”

Fort Worth-based architecture firm Bennett Benner Partners will develop the project. Principal Michael Bennett said his team is doing their best to stay true to the original design from when the building was first constructed in 1911. While his team was unable to find the original renderings for the building, they were able to find photos by the building’s original contractors, which aided in the renovation planning, he said.

To recreate the original design, Bennett said, the renovation plan includes opening existing windows that are currently closed, as well as removing parts of the building that were not part of the original structure, such as a loading dock and a portion of one of the barns.

The project will cost about $40 million and is slated to begin in early 2016, Bennett said.

The renovation of the horse and mule barns is part of a bigger $175 million project to renovate the Stockyards, approved by the City Council in 2014. California-based Majestic Realty is heading the project along with the Hickman family, who owns 70 acres in the Stockyards.

Along with the approval of the horse and mule barn project, four structures — including the horse and mule barns — received approval to be given the city's highest historic designation.

The O'Keefe-Long Building, 101-107 West Exchange Avenue; Stockyards Lodge No. 1244, 2408 North Main Street; and building on 115-125 West Exchange Avenue received approval to be designated as “Highly Significant and Endangered (HSE),” giving the buildings the highest levels of protection and tax incentives.

The Historical and Cultural Landmarks Commission handles matters dealing with historic districts and structures, such as recommending that the City Council put historic designations on certain structures. The members of the commission are appointed by City Council.

To receive the designation, buildings have to meet at least five items on the city's Criteria for Historic Designation.

On Tuesday, assistant planning director Dana Burghdoff and Ibanez Architecture consultant Randy Gideon will brief the City Council on the design standards document approved back in September. The Urban Design Commission and Zoning Commission will also have a briefing and hold a public hearing before voting on the task force's recommendations within the next two months. The City Council will vote in January.

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