Westchester Plaza has shut down and its 100-plus residents, most of them low-income and disabled, have moved, authorities said.
Westchester, at northeast corner of Summit and Pennsylvania avenues, was one of the largest assisted-living centers in Texas that supported Medicaid recipients.
The facility has weathered financial hardships and complaints from residents over the years concerning inadequate staffing and other issues. Its owners said they shuttered the facility because it was too hard to operate in the current regulatory environment and with changes to Medicaid.
The residents were told in July that they had until Thursday to move out.
One resident, a 61-year-old resident dead outside the building on July 17, slumped over in his wheelchair. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner has not yet posted a cause of death as of Friday. The state is also investigating.
Barbara Reed, one of the 117 residents forced to move, said she found temporary housing with a friend at the end of July, but not before she was admitted to John Peter Smith Hospital for anxiety, depression and high blood pressure.
Reed blamed her two-day hospital stay on the additional stress caused by her forced eviction. Reed also said she feels bad that she is a bother to the friends who graciously took her in.
“These people are taking care of their two blind parents and their children,” Reed said. “I wish I could have found another place to stay but I couldn’t.”
The United Way of Tarrant County assisted in helping other residents to find new homes.
In April, Fort Worth-based E Capital Partners bought the note on Westchester Plaza in a bulk sale of Housing and Urban Development loans, the firm said. E Capital’s Erich Holmsten said they learned of the closure after the sale. The facility sits on prime real estate in the Medical District on the city’s near southside, which has seen a huge influx of apartment development in the past few years.
Five years ago, WGH Heritage, which owned Weschester Plaza, defaulted on its loan payments and restructured $20 million in debt that was backed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. WGH also faced losing its license when it was found that Westchester’s sprinkler system wasn’t working properly.
Two years ago, WGH Heritage, which is owned by Doug Sweeney and Jeff Bryant, agreed to pay $30,000 in civil penalties to the Texas attorney general’s office to settle a lawsuit stemming from complaints that the assisted-living facility did not have a working sprinkler system for eight months in 2012.
WGH Heritage also agreed to pay $10,000 in attorneys fees and investigation costs, according to the settlement that was reached Oct. 26 in state district court in Tarrant County.
Westchester Prime Management sued Unlimited Sprinkler Fire Protection and Mechantek Corporation in 2016, seeking to recoup their losses to the state in addition to losses blamed on bad publicity. Westchester withdrew its lawsuit in June.
Bryant declined comment and a WGH employee said Sweeney was unavailable.
Westchester attorneys have argued that the business lost more than $595,000 in profits due to negative publicity triggered by the sprinkler-system lawsuit and the resulting mortgage default to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Between June 2014 and June 2015, Westchester’s census declined by an average 20 residents,” the lawsuit stated. “The average monthly loss due to the lowered census was approximately $45,777.75 per month from June 2014 to June 2015.”
This story contains information from Star-Telegram archives.