Fort Worth

Old, Empty Building Getting New Life, Millions Invested

Fort Worth Housing Authority to renovate empty downtown building

For the last four years an 11-story building has sat empty in the heart of downtown Fort Worth.

But by the end of next year, Hunter Plaza will be full of people again thanks to a multi-million dollar renovation.

Hunter Plaza was built 60 years ago at Burnett and West First streets, first as the Fortune Arms Hotel before being purchased by the Fort Worth Housing Authority in 1973.

It served residents for 37 years before a bedbug infestation in 2010 forced all 219 residents to move, leaving the building empty to this day.

"A building that's just become an eyesore," said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.

Since the building's closure and fumigation, local, state and federal agencies have worked to come up with a long-term solution for the building. With the ceremonial hammering of dry wall on Wednesday, that future has arrived in the form of a $29 million renovation.

The remodel of the building, mostly on the inside, will create commercial and retail space, additional parking and 164 apartments. The one- and two-bedroom units will be mostly affordable housing but will also include some that cost market value.

"We have to have some housing that has some subsidy and lower rent, and this is a great adapted reuse of a facility that's just sitting and can be built for affordable housing," Price said.

What makes the project even more interesting and appealing is the fact that most housing authorities and cities would never come up with such a project.

"This is a piece of prime real estate downtown. The majority of cities would have asked the housing authority, 'Can we just buy it from you? Tear it down, sell it to the highest bidder?'" said Naomi Byrne, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Housing Authority.

But Byrne said the city, the local tax district and downtown groups didn't want that.

"One of the big pushes for downtown is to increase the number of housing units downtown for the people who work downtown, and this does exactly that," Byrne said.

Construction is already underway at the building and should be completed in December 2015.

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