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New luxury, multifamily community to honor Juneteenth advocate Opal Lee

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Fort Worth Housing Solutions, the public housing authority for the nation’s 12th largest city, and nationally recognized development partner AMTEX have finalized a deal to build a 339-unit, luxury, mixed-income community off Westport Parkway and what will become far North Beach Street.

The 19-acre development is the sister property to The Holston, a resort-style community of 265 units that opened in December and is currently 75 percent leased.

The Holston is named for Barbara Holston, the longtime chief executive of the Fort Worth Housing Authority, the predecessor of FWHS.

The Opal will be named for Fort Worth’s Opal Lee, a 94-year-old retired educator and community leader who leads a national awareness campaign to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

The Opal will be the sixth property developed by FWHS and AMTEX, a company that ranks No. 6 in affordable housing production nationally, through a relationship that began eight years ago with development of the mixed-income Avondale Apartments in northwest Fort Worth.

The Opal announcement comes on the eve of national and local Juneteenth Celebrations, with Tarrant County events organized by Lee and the nonprofit she leads, Unity Unlimited Inc. The 2021 Juneteenth celebration gets under way Saturday, June 5, with a traditional Miss Juneteenth pageant at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth.

“We are thrilled to be able to recognize a woman who has become a national icon in the Juneteenth movement by naming a beautiful new community in honor of Opal Lee,” FWHS President Mary-Margaret Lemons said. “Ms. Opal has always advocated for opportunity, and residents who choose to make The Opal their home will love the access this community has to job centers, great schools and the thriving Alliance Airport area.”

AMTEX Founder and Chief Executive Officer Percy Vaz said that the tremendous demand for units at The Holston encouraged partners to fast-track development of The Opal. Construction is scheduled to begin by Nov. 1 with construction to take about 24 months and leasing to begin in 2023.

“AMTEX has been impressed with Fort Worth’s collaborative spirit that paved the way for The Holston and the tremendous demand for our Class A property that includes units reserved for moderate-income individuals and families,” Vaz said. “We’re proud to name the new development after Opal Lee and intend this to be a permanent recognition of her life’s work as a teacher, school counselor and advocate for history. She is a true inspiration.”

In a May 2021 video interview published by Southern Living, Ms. Opal – as she prefers to be called – recounts the story of how a mob, 500 strong, assembled at her family’s Fort Worth home when she was 12 and demanded that her family leave.

The family fled, and the mob “tore the place apart and burned the furniture,” she said. Since then Ms. Opal has always had a heart for people seeking safe, affordable housing.

“If we had been allowed to stay, they would have found out that we wanted the same thing they wanted: a decent job, a decent place to stay, food on the table,” Ms. Opal told Southern Living, later sharing: “I’m humbled by the naming of this property for me. I’ve lived in some really bad housing in my lifetime, and I am thankful that others are reaping the benefit of excellent housing developed today.”

Similar to the Holston, The Opal will offer one-, two- and three-bedroom units to individuals and families who live and work in the thriving Alliance Corridor. The properties are near major employers including McKesson Corp., UPS, Nestlé and the Facebook Data Center.

Half of the units will be offered at market rate; the other half will be available to households earning 80 percent or less of the Area Median Income. The Opal will reserve 5 percent of the units for households earning 50 percent or less of AMI. In 2021, an individual earning $45,300 or less a year meets the 80 percent threshold; an annual income of $28,300 or less is 50 percent of AMI.

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