Plans to redevelop Fort Worth largest public housing project – Butler Place – took a big step forward on Monday as the Fort Worth Housing Solutions Board of Commissioners approved a master developer for the effort.
Atlanta-based Columbia Residential and its local partner, Hap Baggett, were chosen for the project. Both have worked together to develop Renaissance Square in East Fort Worth.
There were four finalists for the project.
Housing Solutions President Naomi Byrne said she will now begin negotiating a contract with Columbia.
“That should take from 30 to 60 days,” she said.
“After nearly 18 months working with a community advisory group and a national search for a master developer, we are extremely pleased that we will be able to partner with Columbia to transform so many lives as well as the topography of this isolated community” she said. “Now we can begin exploring in earnest the real and tangible possibilities that the future holds for the people and property of Butler. The process will be much like sculptor looking at a block of stone. We are about to start chipping away at something to reveal a beautiful work.”
The 41-acre public housing complex opened in the early 1940s and was expanded in 1963.
Butler Place consists of 412 units in 68 buildings. It was created under the authority of the Housing Act of 1937, and part of the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.
Noel Khalil, CEO and founder of Columbia Residential said, “Our goal is to provide sustainable high-quality housing for current and future residents within a revitalized, connected neighborhood that is an essential part of the Fort Worth fabric. Our team is thrilled to have this opportunity to help realize a new community vision for this part of Fort Worth.”
Columbia Residential has engaged Texas-based design team members with extensive experience in Fort Worth including JHP Architecture & Urban Design, MultaTech Engineering and HB Properties for the project.
FWHS received approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in October 2015 to convert Butler Place into a HUD Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (RAD). RAD allows public housing agencies and owners of certain at-risk, federally assisted properties to convert their current assistance to long-term, project-based Section 8 contracts and leverage financing to help reduce the severe backlog of needed capital repairs.
The challenges to redevelopment in the area are considerable. As the freeway system in the area developed, Butler Place became isolated from downtown and other areas of the city. In earlier discussions, business leaders said any plan to redevelop Butler would need better access into downtown and across the BNSF railroad right of way.
But the area is ripe for redevelopment, said Byrne. The Fort Worth Independent School District is transforming the iconic I.M. Terrell school into I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and Visual and Performing Arta Science Technology Engineering and Math, with plans to open it in fall 2018. Construction on the project should be complete in January 2018.
This story contains information from the FWBP archives.