Stop Six: Cavile Place redevelopment to cost $112 million, take several years

Scott Nishimura

Fort Worth took the first step toward a $112 million plan to transform the aging Cavile Place housing project and surrounding neighborhood in Stop Six, with the City Council voting unanimously July 22 to adopt it into the city’s comprehensive plan. Cavile Place was built in 1954, named after a black educator named J.A. Cavile. Officials estimate it will take 10-15 years to implement the plan. It includes razing the 300-unit housing project, rebuilding 225 units in a modern complex on the site and redistributing the rest in the surrounding neighborhoods, building a community garden as a central gathering spot, improving East Rosedale Street for hoped-for retail and other commercial uses, and heightening the focus on education and job training.

The city, the Fort Worth Housing Authority and the federal government are expected to collaborate on the project. Don Babers, the federal Housing and Urban Development administrator who supervised the rebuilding of public housing in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, has agreed to help take the lead, said District 5 City Council member Gyna Bivens, who represents the area and compares the redevelopment to Katrina’s aftermath. “The comparison is revitalization,” she said in an interview. “They had to tear down and build back up, and that’s what we have to do.” The plan includes property acquisitions contemplated at $13.1 million of the overall project budget. About 45 percent of the land in the neighborhood is vacant, the plan says. The targeted property is generally vacant and much of it is in foreclosure or has been foreclosed upon, Bivens said. Some of it is occupied, which officials acknowledge may be a sensitive point in implementing the plan. The foreclosures “are the properties that I’ve been looking at,” Bivens said. Extensive planning and community conversations will kick in now, officials said. Bivens promised “100 percent” community engagement, with every church in the area being given an opportunity to hold a forum.

The 400-acre redevelopment zone is bounded by railroad tracks north of East Rosedale Street, Stalcup Road on the east, Ramey Avenue on the south, and Edgewood Terrace and Lloyd Avenue on the west. The plan, displayed on the Housing Authority website, contemplates 20 potential funding sources, including tax credits; federal, state and city funds; debt; contribution of city-owned land; state homebuyer assistance, and homebuyer mortgages. Private groups including developers will be encouraged to participate. Development of the plan is a requirement for the Housing Authority to be able to seek a federal Choice Neighborhood Initiative grant for the redevelopment of Cavile and the neighborhood. The funding sources identified in the plan are just “a guide of possible funding sources,” said Jay Chapa, the city’s housing and economic development director. “Each project will need to stand on its own.” Communication with, and inclusion of, all community segments will be the biggest challenge, Bivens said. Having been through the Katrina rebuilding, Babers knows the pitfalls to avoid, she said. “If people know A to Z, then their fears can be addressed rationally,” she said. Key features of the plan:

- FWBP Digital Partners -

• Transform vacant property into community gardens and farmers’ market, along the Dunbar creek/drainage channel from Calumet Street southeast to Ramey Avenue. Besides creating a central spot, the garden could create job possibilities including marketing and selling the produce and could increase the retail-starved neighborhoods’ access to fresh produce. The creek would help irrigate the gardens. • Stress the importance of school to the neighborhoods. “The scholastic achievement of these students weighs heavily on how much funding we get,” Bivens said. The Fort Worth Independent School District’s recent creation of the Young Men’s Leadership Academy is leading “a transformation of the educational opportunities in the neighborhood,” the plan says. A Tarrant County College “opportunity center” is one possibility, Bivens said. The plan also calls for expanding transportation services to the schools during bad weather. • Create a neighborhood job training and business incubator that would focus on training and placement programs in culinary arts, agriculture and other jobs related to the community garden concept. Create a small-business development program related to community gardens. • Demolish the 300-unit, “barracks-like” Cavile Place and replace it with 300 new public housing units, including 225 in the Cavile neighborhood. The remaining 75 units would be “outside the Cavile Place neighborhood on sites to be determined,” the plan says. The 300 units would be demolished and replaced in phases of 112, 88 and 100. A proposed 150 new units, including public housing and affordable and market rate rentals, would be built on the Cavile site. The plan calls for “blocks immediately adjacent to the Cavile Place site [to] be purchased and assembled for new housing development. While much of this land is already vacant, there are some occupied properties. These are also proposed to be acquired, and where possible, renovated to become an integral part of the new construction.” Total development proposed on these blocks, the plan says, would be 293 residential units. • Create an East Rosedale “gateway.” The blocks on the south side of East Rosedale at South Tierney Road are “significant gateway sites” that should include mixed-use buildings with commercial uses on the ground floor and apartments above. The plan calls for 53 rental units on these blocks. • Build single-family houses on infill lots. The plan calls for 193 single-family houses on existing vacant infill lots. The houses should be mixed-income, Bivens says. She plans to approach “high-end” builders to gauge their interest in building homes that would accommodate, for example, pastors of the many churches in the district and Southeast Fort Worth. And she wants to use existing incentive programs to encourage police officers, firefighters and other public employees to buy into the neighborhoods. • Improve Fort Worth T routes. Current bus routes are inconvenient to portions of the neighborhoods, creating what Bivens says one person with whom she’s consulted calls “barriers to employment.” Some of the streets in the neighborhoods will also need to be improved to allow bus access, she said.