FORT WORTH -- The Fort Worth Housing Authority wants to buy the former Knights of Pythias Hall in the Hillside neighborhood east of downtown and redevelop the property into apartments to help meet affordable-housing needs of workers in the central business district.
The city plans to issue a $700,000 community development block grant administered by the Housing and Urban Development Department toward the project. The city is in the 30-day public comment period of the grant. It is scheduled go before the City Council in June for approval.
"We had been looking at it for probably over a year now," Brian Dennison, vice president of development and asset management for the housing authority, said of the 86-year-old, two-story building at Second and Crump streets.
Total project costs haven't been determined, but the block grant would be used to renovate the building and to buy two adjacent lots, allowing room for a total of 20 apartments. Planned are 10 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom units ranging from 550 to 850 square feet.
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Additional grants, debt and equity will be used to fund the project. The housing authority does not yet have the property under contract, Dennison said.
Jay Chapa, director of the city Housing and Economic Development Department, said the project will meet a growing need for affordable housing in and around downtown.
Right now, the Electric Building, at Seventh and Lamar streets, and Lincoln Property's apartment community in Trinity Bluff offer the only options.
"The housing authority has come up with a really good plan," Chapa said.
Townsite Co., a Fort Worth real estate development firm, and Elk River Investments in Denton have owned the Knights of Pythias Hall since 2007. They planned to renovate the structure into condos and add some row houses next to it. Those would have been owner-occupied.
Phillip Poole, a Townsite principal, said the project never came to fruition after the recession. He called the housing authority's plan "a good solution" for the vacant building.
The building was completed in 1925, and until 1947 it served as the Key West Lodge of the Knights of Pythias fraternal organization. It was also used by several businesses.
The housing authority is also looking to redevelop the vacant 11-story Hunter Plaza public housing property at West First and Burnett streets downtown as a mixed-use facility with affordable housing. The 60-year-old building has been vacant for a year.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727