Longtime Crestwood resident Wesley Kirk recalled living at Crestwood Place Apartments in 2018 before moving to another part of the neighborhood.
The apartments on White Settlement Road offered a nice affordable place for young people like Kirk to live, places that he said can be hard to find nowadays in the city’s urban core.
“I think affordable housing is great, but I just wish it didn’t take Fort Worth Housing Solutions to buy the property and someone to redevelop it to make sure it stays affordable,” said Kirk, a filmmaker who also sits on SteerFW’s board of directors.
Now, the apartments will be redeveloped in the next few years after Fort Worth Housing Solutions and Dallas-based Ojala Holdings bought it in October 2022. The agency owns nearly 50 properties.
Over 100 residents from the Crestwood neighborhood and surrounding communities packed the fellowship hall at Central Christian Church on the evening of June 5 to learn more about the fate of the site.
While neither final plans nor a timeline for the project have been released, rumors quickly took hold about the potential use of the historic apartments.
“I’m not afraid to admit to you that the barking chain in this neighborhood just went wild with all sorts of conspiracy theories about what was going to happen to the apartment complex over here,” Lloyd Colegrove, president of the Crestwood Association, told the Fort Worth Report before the meeting. “I will tell you, our main interest is we don’t want that thing torn down and a five-story multiplex system set up there.”
What is known is the property’s existing structure, dating as far back as the late 1930s, would be eventually replaced with brand new construction, a mix of two and three stories as well as some townhomes, according to Fort Worth Housing Solutions. The lot, which currently houses 114 units, will accommodate 210 homes.
Once redeveloped, the property will be designated for residents 55 and older because of a deed restriction imposed on the site.
Fort Worth Housing Solutions has identified a gap in affordable housing for senior residents.
Documents from Fort Worth Housing Solutions note that the new construction will be done within the existing zoning of the site. This limits what can be built there, said Matthew Vruggink, one of the partners at Ojala Holdings present at the meeting.
“It’s not public housing. It’s not Section 8 housing. It’s not permanent supportive housing. And it’s not any other thing you would think of when you think about historical bad connotations that come with rhetoric about public housing,” Vruggink said.
Zoning, infrastructure and affordability
Crestwood Place Apartments is currently zoned for medium density, which means multifamily dwelling units are limited to 24 units per acre. The lot is around 8.5 acres.
That means the total maximum number of units allowed on the lot would be around 203.
Because of the zoning, there is no chance that the property would house a high-rise building. Mary Margaret Lemons, president of Fort Worth Housing Solutions, emphasized that point to residents during the meeting.
“I grew up in Fort Worth, this is my home, and I’m not going to do anything that I can’t look somebody in the face and say that it was the right thing,” she said. “We want to be thoughtful about how we do this because we want it to blend into the community and be an asset instead of anything intrusive or that would be a problem.”
Among the main concerns is whether the increase of units on White Settlement Road will add additional pressure on the current infrastructure like roads, water and sewer.
“(The neighborhood is) not going to allow the city to say OK without all these improvements being done,” Colegrove said.
The city will determine the need for new infrastructure and whether current roads and water lines are adequate to support current and future residents.
“Fort Worth needs responsible development. Development is coming but we have to be responsible about the way we approach it, and make sure we’re taking care of our existing neighborhoods first,” said Council member Macy Hill, who represents the Crestwood neighborhood and attended the meeting.
Although Fort Worth Housing Solutions and Ojala Holdings acquired the property together as part of a public-private partnership, Crestwood Place Apartments is owned on paper by Ironwood Crossing Public Facility Corp., a subsidiary that Fort Worth Housing Solutions owns.
As part of the deal, the housing agency owns the land while partners in the project entered into a long-term ground lease for the property.
The acquisition of the apartment by a public facility corporation allows the partners of the project to be tax-exempt and therefore offer lower rent options, Vruggink said.
While the redevelopment of Crestwood Place Apartments is not expected for a few years, current tenants who will not be able to live in the new 55 and older complex will be relocated and provided resources to assist them with the move, Fort Worth Housing Solutions and Ojala said.
Decentralizing poverty with citywide purchases
Fort Worth Housing Solutions’ purchase of Crestwood Place Apartments is part of the agency’s effort to decentralize poverty across the city. Seven other properties were recently acquired or will soon be built by the agency where at least half the units will be reserved for individuals and families who make below a certain income threshold.
The goal of these acquisitions is to preserve the natural affordability of these sites, Lemons said.
“The alternative was that (Crestwood Place Apartments) was going to go out on the market and a New York investor was going to buy it,” she said. “So we have local control to maintain the affordability.”
What 8 properties were added to Fort Worth Housing Solutions’ portfolio?
- Skyline Prairie, Phase II
- Inspire at Bonds Ranch
- JPI Ederville
- Ramble & Rose
- The Franklin at Samuels Avenue
Existing partnerships with future redevelopment plans:
- Crestwood Place
- The Springs
- Siddons Place
Fort Worth Housing Solution currently operates 49 mixed-income properties through public-private partnerships in what it describes as “high opportunity areas” across Fort Worth. Six new multifamily properties are in the works, too.
“In pockets of town that it’s hard to get affordable housing, we’re trying to at least maintain some affordability and where redevelopment makes sense. We’re trying to do that in a way that’s inclusive,” Lemons said.
This is not the first time Fort Worth’s housing agency has partnered with Ojala Holdings. In 2021, Ojala Holdings developed an affordable housing complex in the Hemphill neighborhood despite some concerns from residents about gentrification.
Recently, Ojala Holdings and Fort Worth Housing Solutions partnered with Tarrant County and the city of Fort Worth to transform a former motel into affordable housing in the Las Vegas Trail neighborhood, which is expected to start construction this summer. The partnership also developed Casa de Esperanza, a former hotel turned into permanent supportive housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness.
Other local properties involving Ojala Holdings include the Standard at Boswell and the Standard at the River District.
For Vruggink, this purchase is part of a broader effort to encourage a growing workforce to invest in Fort Worth.
“They invest in us. They invest in Fort Worth Housing Solutions. They invest in the city of Fort Worth and they invest in the stability and what we create in terms of long-term desirable places to live,” Vruggink said.
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter at @ssadek19.
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