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A NEW VISION FOR THE FUTURE

Project Overview

“Repurposing terror and making it freedom.”

- Ed Gray, Former City Planner, Grand Prairie, TX, and Radio Talk-Show Host

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Building History: 1921-Present

The former Ku Klux Klan Klavern No. 101 at 1012 N. Main Street, Fort Worth, TX, has a long history—a City Staff Report states that the building is “believed to be the only purpose-built Ku Klux Klan structure in the nation, thus inherently conveying a high degree of rarity and national significance.”* According to some historians, it is the only one left standing in the country.

Designed by architect Earl Glasgow, construction began in 1921 and it was completed in 1924. The structure's main floor is 22,000 square feet and it has a large stage, at one time seating 2000 people. It was later sold to Leonard Brothers Department Store in 1931, then was used as a concert hall, a boxing arena, and a warehouse space for Ellis Pecan Company.

In 2004, it was purchased by Sugarplum Holdings, L.P., a group of private investors, to be used as the rehearsal studios for Texas Ballet Theatre; but it was never occupied and has remained unused since then, except as provisional, unofficial living quarters for some of Fort Worth’s houseless population. The owners applied for a Certificate of Appropriateness to demolish in early June 2019. At a hearing of the Historic and Cultural Landmarks commission in July 2019, a 180-day stay of demolition was granted (the longest allowed), which expired January 4, 2020.

(*Bud Kennedy, "Should Fort Worth’s Klan Hall Be Saved? This group has 180 days to prove it should," Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

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The Project—Transform the Building, Transform the City

At the time it was built, 1012 N. Main Street was the second largest building in Fort Worth next to the courthouse (with members of the police and justice system participating in and leading the KKK chapter, one of the largest in the country). The building was a monument to hate and terror—members of targeted cultural groups had to pass the building to access the North Side and other neighborhoods when going to and from downtown. It was a daily reminder to them that they had no power—the looming edifice was another form of policing their behavior, presence, and voices in the city.

Six local organizations are working to acquire and transform 1012 N. Main Street into an international center and museum for arts and community healing. The “1012 Leadership Coalition” models a pluricultural and shared leadership approach to acquiring, programming, and managing the proposed center. This Coalition ensures that the building will be led and programmed by representatives of the cultural groups that were—and still are—targeted by the KKK in this region, thereby returning resources to the communities who suffered at their hands. In so doing, we bring together groups of people in Fort Worth that are often still systemically siloed and separated. Specifically we represent African American, Hispanic, immigrant, Jewish, and LGBTQQ2SPIAA+ populations.

Given the rapid growth of Fort Worth—it is now the 13th largest city in the US, larger than San Francisco—as a leadership team we are “reassembling” the city by returning power to these groups and making 1012 N. Main Street a site of memory, a place for the whole city to come together to grapple with this history and build a way forward together. In addition we are making public our process of creating a leadership culture that is intentional and co-created, not defaulting to one culture or colonial norms, in the hopes that it will inspire other such projects locally and nationwide.

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New Leadership/New Models

The 1012 Leadership Coalition includes:

Daniel Banks and Adam McKinney, DNAWORKS, a fourteen-year-old arts and service organization that has worked in thirty-seven states and seventeen countries to bring people closer together through dance, theatre, film, and community storycircles, focusing on identity, heritage, culture, and genealogy.

Opal Lee, Juneteenth Museum, commemorating the abolition of enslavement in Texas, which occurred more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation; Ms. Lee also founded Opal's Farm, a community farm that employs formerly incarcerated people.

Freddy Cantu, SOL Ballet Folklórico, an award-winning cultural dance and leadership training program for youth of all ages from the North Side.

Tarrant County Coalition for Peace and Justice, an organization founded in 2018, is a non-profit truth and reconciliation team that designs collaborative education to increase recollection, promote reflection, and encourage reconsideration of the significance of racial terror violence in U.S. History.

Vanessa Barker and Taylor Willis, The Welman Project, a creative reuse venture focused on reimagining business waste to provide North Texas students with equitable access to hands-on educational resources; they are seeking to open a community tool library and makerspace.

Window to Your World, founded by Ayesha Ganguly, specializes in program design and implementation, community outreach, group facilitation for non-profit organizations, and capacity building for youth. Ayesha is the Development & Community Outreach Manager at Amphibian Stage Productions in Fort Worth.

We have collected letters of support from over 100 leaders and influencers across multiple sectors, many of whom are helping to move the project forward by making introductions, offering advice or counsel, and/or bringing the project to potential donors. We have experience with this model of catalyzing incremental change made by a large number of people—we find the outcomes to be more meaningful, valuable, sustainable, and resulting in the community being more deeply vested in a project than having a few people do all the work.

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Building Use

The building would prioritize the following areas:

• Arts training and programming for underserved youth and mentorship/performance opportunities for early career performing artists

• Performance space for local and touring artists, especially culturally specific and social justice-oriented groups that have limited access to performance venues

• Museum and exhibit space dedicated to racial, economic, and gender justice and civil rights, to work in concert with Fort Worth Independent School District curricula and programming

• Marketplace to help alleviate North Side food deserts while providing small business incubator services to farmers, artisans, and micro-enterprises

• Tool library and DIY classes to provide local residents with equitable access to equipment and workspace

• Meeting spaces for racial equity and leadership training in education and the arts

• Affordable live/work space for artists, artisans, and entrepreneurs. Potential for mixed-income housing and permanent supportive housing community.

MURRAY MILLER ARCHITECTURAL RENDERING 1
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Currently

The asking price for the building and land is $2 million and the estimated repairs to the roof and the walls are $1.62 million. We have several estimates for renovations/adaptation costs and ongoing maintenance from engineers and architects. We are working with two real estate brokers/developers who are seeking a commercial investor or team of investors.

We have four City of Fort Worth Councilmembers in favor of the project and are currently meeting with others. We have been told that no city money would be available for this project. We have also met with Congressman Mark Veasey (D-TX), who supports the initiative.

Texas-based Tecovas foundation funded an economic impact study to predict Fort Worth’s potential economic growth for such a community-wide project, carried out by Impact DataSource (available upon request). We have received support from the NAACP of Fort Worth and Texas, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Congressman Marc Veasey (D-TX), local Chambers of Commerce, and other local and national leaders.

Transform 1012 N. Main Street was a finalist for the N. Texas Community Foundation’s ToolBox grant. In addition, two prestigious companies have offered pro bono services to the project: Fort Worth-based The Projects Group is leading a feasibility study to attract potential investors; and the award-winning MASS Design Group is creating design concept renderings and a development package as well as serving as a fiscal agent for the project to receive grants and funds until another entity is formed. Landscape architect Walter Hood has recently joined the advisory team.

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Risks/Challenges & Action

While the majority of the response we have received has been positive, including from prominent community leaders, we are aware via social media that some people consider the idea of preserving the building too painful. To facilitate members of the multiple communities impacted by this project coming together and sharing their perspectives, we have been holding multiple community conversations and storycircles. Our intention is that, once the building is secured, the design process would be community-driven.

Inspired by the multiple stories we have already heard from community members from all backgrounds about family histories and racial violence, we plan to have a permanent installation of “Fort Worth Stories” on video monitors throughout the building that people can record when visiting the site. It is our goal that no one leaves the building unchanged and without learning something new about Fort Worth, its history, and its residents.

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Adam McKinney dancing as Fred Rouse, June 2019. Photo: Daniel Banks

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Impact—Local, National, and International

In short, our goal is that the building and the larger community mobilization project around it will be a unifier and be transformed from a monument to hate and violence into a symbol of healing and restorative justice. Several prominent leaders have already thanked us for initiating this process, regardless of the outcome, using almost identical words in expressing that "this project has already transformed the city.” In addition, one local educational specialist said, “This would be an example of reconciliation for the nation.”

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience supports this project and would like to see it be part of their network, including such important historical sites as the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Arkansas, and the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda. We are documenting our process so that we can make it an open-source handbook to encourage other cities nationwide to transform their buildings with vexed histories into centers of art and healing.

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For more information, please contact: info@dnaworks.org

 
 
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