Fort Worth’s Westchester Plaza faces license denial, even if not headed for implosion

By Scott Nishimura

The 50-year-old Westchester Plaza assisted living tower on Fort Worth’s Near Southside – even if not headed for demolition under a California trust’s plan to redevelop the site – would still face possible non-renewal of its license under state proceedings initiated two years ago.

The Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities in October 2012 recommended the denial of Westchester’s license renewal, due to repeated violations for sprinkler systems that weren’t operating properly.

The 12-story facility, a major center for residents who receive Medicaid, has requested a hearing with the state Health and Human Services Commission on the DADS recommendation.

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DADS in September 2012 referred the case for civil penalties to the Texas Attorney General, which filed suit in State District Court in Fort Worth in June.

Melissa Gale, a DADS spokeswoman, said the department’s inspectors visited Westchester Plaza on Sept. 3 and again Sept. 19, “and no deficiencies were cited.”

DADS has not yet received word from the property owner that Westchester, which had 167 residents as of the department’s last census, is closing, Gale said.

Once the facility provides written notification of closure to residents, their families, or their legal representatives, the resident has up to 30 days to relocate, Gale said.

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State law doesn’t require facilities to assist residents with relocation, but typically, a facility will ask the DADS ombudsman for assistance, Gale said.

DADS can also provide lists of similar facilities in the area, she said.

Representatives of WGH Heritage, the nonprofit that owns Westchester Plaza, have not responded this week to requests by The Business Press for an interview.

Paul Paine, president of the Fort Worth South economic development nonprofit, said “even if nothing happened” from the plan to redevelop the site, the property would still require substantial reinvestment soon.

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“It’s antiquated and it has issues,” he said in an interview. Moreover, the location is much better suited to market-rate redevelopment, he said.

HCP, Inc., a real estate investment trust based in Irvine, Calif., plans to implode the residential tower and retail center on the Westchester site and replace them with a six-story mixed-use building that has ground-floor retail and 250-300 apartments; an eight to 10-story medical-office building, and a seven-level parking garage. The garage would be connected to the apartment and medical-office buildings.

HCP won a $3.9 million incentive package Wednesday from the Southside tax increment finance district.

Construction would start in June, allowing time for relocation of tenants, Paine said.