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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Westchester Plaza demolished to make way for new usage

Westchester Plaza, built to great anticipation in 1951 as a luxury apartment building, was reduced to a pile of rubble in the length of a regulation bull ride Sunday morning.

Crowds gathered outside the police safety lines for the 8 a.m. demolition, overseen by Dallas Demolition. The controlled implosion of about 300 pounds of explosives collapsed the building into its own footprint at the corner of Summit and Pennsylvania.

 The building collapsed in eight seconds.

What was left is more than 17,000 tons of rubble that will be cleared away of the next six weeks.

The building was owned by Fort Worth-based 554 S. Summit 1 LLC, which decided that renovation was not practical and clearing the land for an as yet undetermined use was the best option.

The building – styled by architects as Mid-Century Modern – most recently was an assisted living and retirement center.

In August 2017, the residents still in Westchester Plaza were told to move out of the facility, which had a long history of financial and regulatory problems. It was licensed for 275 people and mostly served elderly and disabled individuals. It had been in business since 1998.

At a little over four acres, the land has easy access to Interstate 30 and should be an attractive property for a variety of uses ranging from apartments to a hotel or perhaps a new hospital building in the city’s thriving Medical District.

Austin T. Reilly, a broker with the Land Advisors Organization, retained by the building’s owners to oversee the process of getting the land ready for sale, previously told the Business Press that the property had been appraised at $13,394,245, which includes the building even though the value is really the land.

Fort Worth resident Sheila Worthey planned to watch the implosion with her son, who spent 17 years in the facility. She had nothing kind to say about that experience.

“We just want to see the damn place go down. It’s just a symbol of all that has been harmful,” she said. “It could have been so much better. I don’t think you will find one person who said it was good.”

Paul Paine, president of Near Southside Inc., told the Business Press for an earlier story that he expects the site to draw great interest. He personally would like to see some kind of mixed use development on the location and a residential component would be most beneficial to his purposes.

“I’m always looking for the catalyst that energizes,” Paine said, and residential use would do that for Pennsylvania Avenue. But, so would something like an Omni Hotel that contains a residential for purchase component along with restaurants, retail and meeting space, he said.

The area was known as Quality Hill in the late 19th century and was the successor to Samuels Avenue as the city’s prestigious residential neighborhood, Brenda S. McClurkin and Historic Fort Worth Inc. wrote in the book Fort Worth’s Quality Hill.

There still are a few of the original homes in the area, used primarily for business now.

In 2014, a California real estate investment trust wanted to buy the building, demolish it and redevelop the site into apartments, retail, medical-office and parking. HCP Inc., of Irvine, Calif., sought $3.9 million reimbursement for infrastructure costs from the Southside tax increment finance district, but that deal collapsed.

Includes information from Business Press archives

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Paul Harral
Paul is a lifelong journalist with experience in wire service, newspaper, magazine, local and network television and digital media. He was vice president and editor of the editorial page of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and editor of Fort Worth, Texas magazine before joining the Business Press. What he likes best is writing about people in detail and introducing them to others in the community. Specific areas of passion are homelessness, human trafficking, health care and aerospace.

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