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Friday, January 22, 2021

Westchester Plaza to be imploded to create a prime development site

The long-running saga of Westchester Plaza – the now abandoned building at Eighth Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue on Fort Worth’s Near Southside – is drawing to a close.

Demolition is under way on the building, which most recently served as an assisted living and retirement center. The building is scheduled to be imploded March 4 by Dallas Demolition, said 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.

Once the property is cleared and ready for new construction, Reilly said, his firm will issue requests for proposals nationwide.

The property is owned by E Capital Partners, which bought it in a foreclosure sale of HUD properties. Westchester Plaza had operated as an assisted-living facility for the elderly since 1998 at a licensed capacity of 275 residents. The website Architecture in Fort Worth says the building was constructed in 1951.

“They engaged us early on in the process as they were looking to acquire the note and then throughout the foreclosure process,” Reilly said. “We’ve just been advising them on how to correctly position this property to market.”

At a little over four acres, the land has easy access to I-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.

Reilly said the property has been appraised at $13,394,245, which includes the building even though the value is really in the land.

“This spring, we will be going to market with the site,” Reilly said.

Paul Paine, president of Near Southside Inc., expects the site to draw great interest when goes on the market. He admits that he’s trying to spend other peoples’ money to get what he wants, but he would prefer 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.

In the late 19th century, the area was known as Quality Hill 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.

“Bounded by Seventh Street on the north, Pennsylvania Avenue on the south, Henderson Street on the east, and the Trinity River on the west, the area had an unequaled civility,” McClurkin said. “Quality Hill set the standard for fine living, elaborate entertaining and philanthropy. Just a handful of these gracious homes have survived the years.”

Paine said some are concerned that Near Southside is overbuilding in residential but statistically that’s not the case, and the area may be only halfway to its ultimate residential population.

“It was Quality Hill then and its Quality Hills now,” Paine said.

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.

“We’ll be reaching out to all types of users and developers,” Reilly said. “I wouldn’t count out the institutional types, either, as well – the local hospitals, or hospitals that may be wanting to enter this market.”

The Medical District creates a demand for hotel and meeting space that is not available from the limited service hotels in the Midtown Project, Reilly said.

“There’s nothing on that side of town that can accommodate large scale galas or conferences,” he said. “Really, the only thing we have nearby is the Omni, and the Omni is maxed out at a certain capacity, under 2,000”

Reilly said the site will be offered to developers all over the country, but the first step is to drop the existing building.

“Upon further investigation of the building, the owners determined It just did not serve much of a purpose. It was functionally obsolete, it was in very poor condition, and it just made the most sense for the ownership to go ahead and take it down. And that’s why they decided to do that,” he said.

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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