Dallas Morning News
After two sold-out weekend shows in Dallas at the American Airlines Center, Jon Bon Jovi played to a much smaller crowd Monday. And it wasn’t in typical rock star fashion. Instead, he continued his education on how communities can combat homelessness, taking tours of CityWalk@Akard and the Casa Youth Emergency Shelter. “It’s one soul at a time,” Bon Jovi said.
Since Bon Jovi started the nonprofit Jon Bon Jovi Foundation (formerly the Philadelphia Soul Charitable Foundation) in 2006, he has built 250 affordable housing units in Philadelphia to the tune of $6 million.
During this concert tour, Bon Jovi has made a commitment to visit as many homeless shelters and foundations as possible in each of the cities he visits- to share ideas about the ongoing fight against homelessness. Monday’s first stop was CityWalk@Akard where Bon Jovi spent time talking to John Greenan, executive director of Central Dallas Community Development Corp., and Larry James, president and chief executive officer of Central Dallas Ministries.
CityWalk, which had its grand opening, last month, provides low-cast housing in Dallas to formerly homeless and low-income residents. The facility offers furnished units in a downtown Dallas high-rise, with rents ranging from $350 to $912 per month, including utilities. “It’s run like an apartment complex,” James said. “We figured out a good person pays their rent and doesn’t bother neighbors.”
The mixed-use high-rise that will soon house a 7-Eleven and also offers business offices. It also has penthouse lofts, pre-sold before the project even started. “Those folks are cleaning up their own act because no one’s pointing fingers,” Bon Jovi said. Money and opposition from the neighborhoods is always the biggest issue when low-income housing projects are being considered. But in the long run, these programs can save taxpayers money.
“We’re saving taxpayers $50 million per year in Dallas,” James said. The second stop Monday was the Casa Youth Shelter, a 20-bed haven for run-a ways and troubled youths operated by the Salvation Army. “Some of these kids are runaways and what people call throw-a-ways,” said Maj. Ward Matthews of the Salvation Army. As you enter the tree-lined building that overlooks Bachman Lake, the first thing you’ll notice is the multi-colored hand prints covering the walls.
“We want the kids to leave their mark here,” said Lori Higgins, the associate director of program services. “Then go out and make their own mark in the world.” The shelter- where youth can stay up to 30 days- is funded through grants federal dollars and donations and offers group, family and individual therapy. Two Dallas Independent School District teachers provide educational support.
“We offer counseling, case management and life skills,” Higgins said. Bon Jovi said he understands that the homeless may not be everyone’s cause, but he said it is important to get out there, find a passion and volunteer. “This moves me,” Bon Jovi said. He said wants he wants the next ten years to be a “we decade not a me decade.”
Dallas Business Journal
Over the community room fire place of the newly remodeled City Walk building is the saying, “It warms him twice who cuts his own wood.” It’s a fitting notion for a building that will serve as housing for the formerly homeless and affordable housing for low-wage earners who work near downtown. The irony is that the saying came with the vacant, historical city landmark, a 1950s-era building whose third-floor boardroom was once occupied by the Baptist Annuity Board.
The $35 million CityWalk@Akard project is one of the largest nonprofit housing developments in Texas, and is the largest project for Central Dallas Community Development Corp, which strives in increase the supply of affordable housing in Dallas. The 15-story building consists of 206 high-quality residences, ground-floor retail space and two floors of offices, including the new headquarters for Central Dallas CDC and Central Dallas Ministries. Of the 206 residences, 200 are set aside rental units for affordable, work force housing (leasing for $350 to $900 a month); 50 of those are set aside for formerly homeless individuals who qualify for permanent housing development. The other six units are the top-floor condominiums, which have already been sold. More than 5,000 square feet is devoted to resident amenities and services, including an outdoor terrace on third floor and 12 community rooms. The 186,000 square-foot building contains original features such as marble-walled lobby, terrazzo tile and a turn-stile entry.
The wheels were first set in motion in 2006, when Akard Walk L.P, a limited partnership formed by Central Dallas Ministries and Central Dallas CDC, bought the land at 511 N. Akard St. Two years later, the property was divided into three projects and sold to Akard Walk Commercial LLC, Akard Walk Residential LLC and Akard Walk Condo LLC. Central Dallas CDC controls the managing member of each of these limited liability corporations.
The building is scheduled for completion this month, with 65% of the commercial space leased, half of the residential units pre-leased and retail commitment from 7-Eleven. For John Greenan, executive director of Central Dallas CDC, the project is a symbol of what is possible in Dallas. “We need to show that you could build housing for the homeless,” he said. “Right up until the day we opened (temporary occupancy was granted in January), there were people that didn’t believe we could get it done. This is a good thing for the city and it will make future projects easier. “We think that to have a vibrant downtown, you’ve got to have diverse housing options.” Putting together the financing proved to be extremely complicated, Greenan said. The project is funded by 20 sources, including $1 million from the Rees-Jones Foundation, and is eligible for multiple tax credits.
While CityWalk@Akard presented many construction and design challenges, one of the best aspects was the opportunity to transform a derelict building into a restored piece of Dallas history, said Steve Whitcraft, executive vice president of general manager at Key Construction in Fort Worth and former president of Preservations Dallas.
“It certainly is a project that we’ve been proud of and fortunate to be involved with from inception to completion, “he said. “We hope it provides another opportunity for people to afford to live in the downtown area and that it will really help the City of Dallas grow in a positive direction.”
Published: B26 February 26, 2010 DBJ