In early December, real estate development experts from across the country will come to Fort Worth for five days to tackle a looming question faced by the Fort Worth Housing Authority: What to do with Butler Place?
The 10-member team is being assembled the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Urban Land Institute to provide technical assistance to the housing authority. Among its duties, the panel will research the property and adjacent neighborhoods, and interview as many as 100 stakeholders before sitting down to develop a set of recommendations, said Naomi Byrne, Fort Worth Housing Authority president.
“This type of planning has never been done” for Butler Place, Byrne said. “This will give us ideas what the next steps are.”
Built and opened in the early 1940s, Butler Place is the city’s oldest existing public housing complex. Butler Place is on the east side of downtown, bounded by Interstates 30 and 35W and U.S. 287. While the property has been renovated over the years, the 75-year-old complex needs a major overhaul.
The Housing Authority, along with Downtown Fort Worth Inc. Initiatives, the city of Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Independent School District have split the $125,000 cost for the ULI panel. The ULI Foundation is also contributing $10,000. Downtown Fort Worth Inc. Initiatives is the charitable affiliate of the nonprofit advocacy group Downtown Fort Worth Inc.
The workshop, scheduled for Dec. 7-11, is being done in anticipation of Butler Place’s approval for the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. The new program transfers ownership of public housing units from the federal government to the local housing authority, allowing the local group to do what it wants with the property.
Byrne said Butler, which has 412 units and is home to about 900 residents, has partial approval for the RAD program and should receive full approval by the end of the year. Then, the housing authority has three years to convert the property, she said.
The housing authority is also awaiting word on Cavile Place, built in 1954. A revitalization plan for Cavile Place calls for the property to be demolished and rebuilt as part of rebuilding the Stop Six neighborhood.
The opportunity for Fort Worth, when you look at what could happen at Butler and Cavile, is amazing.
Naomi Byrne, Fort Worth Housing Authority president
Hunter Plaza downtown, another public housing property in the RAD program, has been gutted and is being rebuilt into larger, modern units. Residents will start moving in sometime in December.
The ULI recommendations likely will call for demolition of Butler Place to make way for a new development with multifamily and single-family residences. At 42 acres, the Butler Place site is the largest piece of land next to downtown ripe for redevelopment, Byrne said.
“The opportunity for Fort Worth, when you look at what could happen at Butler and Cavile, is amazing,” she said.
Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., said he expects the ULI panel to be top-notch and to include an expert in public housing.
Taft saidt the possibility of a Butler Place redevelopment is “very exciting for the people who live there, for the center city and all of Fort Worth.”