They don’t make them like Butler Place anymore, which is why there has been a plan - years in the making - to close down what is known as Fort Worth’s “Front Door” and relocate all of its residents.
Butler Place is the oldest, largest public housing project in Fort Worth — home to more than 900 people who live in 66 buildings spread out across the 42-acre campus just east of downtown.
“They were built in the 1940s and it’s stood the test of time, but we need to do something better now,” said Mary Margaret Lemons, interim President of Fort Worth Housing Solutions (FWHS), the organization that runs public housing in Fort Worth.
The residents who live in Butler Place, all of whom fall below the federal poverty line, will be relocated across 13 different mixed-income properties across the city of Fort Worth, beginning later this year.
That process has been the subject of much misunderstanding, according to Lemons, who said she is constantly forced to correct rumors that members of the public, and residents of Butler Place, bring to her.
“We hear things that we are moving the entire Butler community to one area of Fort Worth, which is not true at all,” Lemons said. “This is going to happen over months and even years and it’s not going to be one central place that we are relocating to.”
This spring FWHS selected Columbia Residential to be the new master developer to help rework the Butler Place site into a vibrant part of the Downtown area.
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"Something that's similar to a live-work-play space," said Terri Attaway, board chair for the Fort Worth Housing Solutions Board, in March.
Aubrey Thagard, Director of the Fort Worth Department of Neighborhood Services, noted that the Butler Place model for public housing — grouping large number of poor people into one place — is outdated in the eyes of federal, state and local governments.
“Taking low income individuals and putting them in one area has proven not to be a sound economic model,” Thagard said. “It does not provide any opportunities for growth – both from an economic perspective and also a social perspective.”
“What we are trying to do is provide the opportunities in which individuals can have access to services, jobs and schools that meet their needs and help move them up in the economic scale, so to speak,” Thagard said.
The finalized plans for what will happen to the current Butler Place location have not been announced.