Hunter Plaza first opened as the Fortune Arms Hotel in 1954 on the northwest side of downtown until the Fort Worth Housing Authority bought it in 1971. It was later turned into public housing for the elderly and people with disabilities.
Reconstruction of the building started in November 2014 and cost $29 million, turning it into a mix of public housing and regular rental units with 10,000 square feet in ground level space for retail and commercial use.
Anyone who used to live in the building at 605 W. First St. has the option to return, Housing Authority President Naomi Byrne said. Hunter Plaza has 50 market-rate apartments, and 114 affordable-rate apartments paid for through different programs.
Byrne told the Star-Telegram that most of the people who had to move out in 2010 took Section 8 housing vouchers and found other apartments with amenities they needed.
Fourteen people are moving in this weekend, and William Earl Cooper, 65, is first on the list.
Cooper lived at the old Hunter Plaza for 21 years. In 2009 he relocated to Butler Place, the red-brick complex built in 1951 for the city’s lowest income families.
Cooper has been waiting to get back to downtown Fort Worth.
“It is really nice,” Cooper said. “It was really a mess six years ago.”
He’ll move into a one-bedroom unit on the 10th floor with his rent based on his income from Social Security and Medicaid.
Cooper said he’s excited about the walkability of living downtown again.
A two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit shown off next to his on Wednesday has silver light fixtures, black kitchen appliances and amenities such as a washer, dryer and dishwasher. The view is of the Fort Worth Central Library.
A federal program called Rental Assistance Demonstration, which transfers ownership of public housing units from the federal government to the local housing authority and allows the authority to take out loans on those properties, applied to Hunter Plaza in 2013.
The housing authority took out $18.6 million in loans and state and federal tax credits to pay for the remodel.
A partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, the city of Fort Worth and Downtown TIF No. 3 handled the Hunter Plaza redevelopment.
Public officials at a Wednesday afternoon groundbreaking included Mayor Betsy Price, former mayors including Mike Moncrief, City Councilwoman Ann Zadeh, whose district includes downtown, Councilman Zim Zimmerman and others.
“District 9 is made up of a diverse population and downtown hasn’t been accessible to many different types of people,” Zadeh said.
The Hunter Plaza apartments should appeal to workers from support staff at offices to restaurant waiters, she said.
Price said she can’t wait to see what retail businesses move in on the ground floor.
There are 19 floor plans, with 13 one-bedroom, one-bathroom, units measuring 585-743 square feet, and six two-bedroom, two-bathroom units measuring 750-930 square feet.
Applications are still being accepted, which are best done in person, Hunter Plaza business manager Janna Rivera said.
The lowest market rates are $720 monthly; the highest is $1,192.
Building amenities include a theater, resident club room, fitness center, library, business center and resident garage.
The Fort Worth Housing Authority, created in 1938, also announced that it has a new name: Fort Worth Housing Solutions. “Authority” sounded too bureaucratic, Byrne said.
“We needed to redevelop our brand because we are a ‘solutions’ provider for those in need,” Bryne said.
Hunter Plaza was developed in partnership with Carleton Development LTC, designed by BOKA Powell and constructed by SEDALCO Construction.
Private partners included PNC Bank, Stonehenge Capital, Community Bank of Texas N.A. and the Bank of Texas.
13 one-bedroom units, one-bath units, at 585-743 square feet.
6 two-bedroom, two-bath units, at 750-930 square feet.
Address: 605 W. First St.