First Presby Day School Parents Have Concerns About Supportive Housing Planned Downtown

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Earlier this week we received word that some parents sending their kids to the First Presbyterian Church Developmental Day School on St. Paul downtown are concerned about plans for a piece of property adjacent to the school. Seems they just discovered that developer Larry Hamilton and John Greenan, executive director of Central Dallas Community Development Corp., are planning to build permanent supportive housing next to the school -- the 141-unit complex known as the St. Paul Apartments, as it was presented to the Dallas City Council's Housing Committee in February. According to an email sent to parents earlier this week, at least part of the complex will overlook the school's playground.

Greenan, more or less responsible for getting Citywalk@Akard off the ground, and Hamilton, who's behind a number of downtown redos, are asking the city for $2,343,620 out of the $10 million the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs is making available to Dallas, Denton, Collin, Tarrant and Grayson Counties. Just two weeks ago today, actually, they went down to Austin -- with Mike Faenza, president and CEO of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance -- to make their case to the TDHCA. A full transcript of their visit is available here, and more excerpts follow. But as Faenza explained to the board:

The St. Paul project with its 141 units of permanent supportive housing would be very special in our solution building for chronic homelessness, because of the proximity, our ability to integrate services at St. Paul Apartments, and the Bridge. And the Alliance and the Bridge are determined to capitalize on this opportunity, if we gain your support to make a big difference in our effort to end chronic homelessness.

We'll get back to that in a second. But First Presbyterian's senior pastor, the Reverend Dr. Joseph Clifford, tells Unfair Park today that, yes, there are concerns, which will be discussed at a meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. at the church today.

"I am convinced permanent supportive housing is the solution to ending chronic homelessness," says Clifford, whose church operates The Stewpot on Park Avenue. "The challenge is location, and this location is not without its challenges. Our plan is to hear [the parents'] concerns, and then we can meet with Hamilton and share their concerns and see what we can do. That's the hope. We've got other projects we're working on with supportive housing in other locations, so we know how complicated it is, how hard it is, so we'll take those concerns to Hamilton and see we can do."

I've left messages for Hamilton and Greenan, and will update accordingly. Till then, after the jump you'll find a complete transcript of their testimony in Austin, including Faenza's "two major criteria for using those units."

Update at 2:04 p.m.: Hamilton just called back and said this is the first he's heard about any concerns. He says the church has known about the project for months, and besides, he notes, the apartments "will create an enclave that will create a privacy wall" for the playground, which is currently separated from the street by an easy-to-peek-through fence. "And," he says, "it's providing housing for those who need it most." He jumped off to call Clifford to see what's what.

LARRY HAMILTON: I am speaking in support of the St. Paul Apartments project, number 11-056, and this is a $14 million project that is in downtown Dallas, and we have got some boards to show you.

It is co-sponsored by our firm, Hamilton Properties Corporation and the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit that has successfully completely 511 North Akard, the City Walks Project. This is a vital project for downtown Dallas, to help the revitalization efforts that have been ongoing.

The Main Street district now is this vibrant location. We need to connect the Main Street district to the Farmers Market district. We also need to address the problem of homelessness, which this does.

We have a 146-unit project, which will be debt free and all of the income from the project will be used for services. The services will be provided by the Bridge, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance which operates the Bridge and will provide the placement of formerly homeless persons in this.

Of the 146 units, 141 of them are dedicated for permanent supportive housing purposes. This is a rare point in time when we have an opportunity to do a permanent supportive housing project to address homelessness that has support of the neighborhood. We actually have not only an approval letter from the downtown Dallas resident's organization but we have their vigorous support of this.

Okay. So this is -- the location of the St. Paul Apartments project, which is next to the project that we appreciate. Thank you very much, Board, for providing the Atmos Lofts project in this past year. And this is just to the south of it. This is the urban, the Neiman-Marcus store, the Urban Market grocery store.

You can see that this project would be right in the middle of transportation opportunities. Dallas City Hall is shown right here and here is the Bridge, and this is a companion project that is proximate to the Bridge. So let me introduce Mike Fienza next, who is the CEO of the Bridge.

MR. FAENZA: Thank you, Larry. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Board members, for your volunteerism and all you do for the Department. And thank you to you, Michael, and your staff for great work under tough circumstances. We appreciate you in Dallas a great deal. Yes. Mike Fienza, President and CEO of the Dallas Homeless Alliance. We operate the Bridge campus that Mr. Hamilton spoke of. We serve 1,200 chronically or long term homeless people each day and since opening in 2008, we have placed almost 1,000 people in permanent supportive housing with a 90 percent stability rate. And the Bridge is funded by partnerships. One with the Department, which has appreciated a great deal, that over the last couple of years, has helped us really enhance services and build that program. The City of Dallas, Dallas County, and every major foundation in Dallas. The St. Paul project with its 141 units of permanent supportive housing would be very special in our solution building for chronic homelessness, because of the proximity, our ability to integrate services at St. Paul Apartments, and the Bridge. And the Alliance and the Bridge are determined to capitalize on this opportunity, if we gain your support to make a big difference in our effort to end chronic homelessness. And thanks for your consideration.

C. KENT CONINE, Chair of the TDHCA board:

Thank you. Mr. Greenan.

MR. GREENAN: Thank you, Chairman Conine, members of the Board, Mr. Gerber. I am John Greenan, Executive Director of Central Dallas Community Development Corporation. First, I want to thank the Board once again for their help and their work in completing the City Walk at Akard project. The final amendment, thankfully, is on the agenda later, and we have worked with staff, who was most gracious and tireless in getting it completed. I will be here, in case there are questions but I will not speak, because I think we have resolved everything. This project at St. Paul Apartments, I think, is a continuation really, of what we have done at City Walk. We have now been in operation a little over a year and the fact that we have got the downtown neighborhood association to support this St. Paul Apartments project, I think shows that we can successfully operate a permanent supportive housing project in downtown Dallas, and that the community has come to realize that it can make the community better.

Crime is down. Homelessness is down. More downtown residents are living in Dallas than ever before. Certainly, we can't claim credit for all of that but the work at the Bridge and the work at City Walk and other people to reduce homelessness is really having a positive impact. We would really like to continue that momentum.

And just a few more words about this particular project. Because it is a really unique possibility. The land in downtown Dallas is being made available at a nominal cost by Mr. Hamilton and his partners. All of the NOI, all of the deferred developers fees are agreed to be devoted to services at the project.

So it is really a wonderful charitable effort and very unusual in that regard, and I hope the Board will be able to support it. Thank you. ...

MICHAEL GERBER, Executive Director of the TDHCA: Mike. We have seen the work at the Bridge, and it has been extraordinary there, and this Department has partnered with the Bridge over many years.

What would be the process for moving folks into this new property, through -- after going through the Bridge process, and all of its related services? What -- can you describe a little more of the linkages and talk a little bit more about how --

MR. FAENZA: Well, there is really two major criteria for using those units. In one, people will have been chronically or long term homeless with a disability, which is often a mental illness, a long term challenge with an addiction, or a physical disability.

And at the same time have, are participating in health care, are housed consistently in shelter or transitional housing. So have that disability, need the services, are participating in services, and are stable, and are ready for that next step, into permanent housing. Thank you.

MR. CONINE: Thank you. Appreciate your testimony.

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