Alice: New Low-Rise Seniors Residence Proposed at Old ‘Haunted’ Hospital Site
Feature Illustration: Architect’s rendering of the concept for FishPond at Alice, an affordable senior housing project. Image: Architettura Inc.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Alice (Jim Wells County) — An Austin-based multifamily developer is proposing to raze the vacant Old Hospital and replace it with a new four-story building for the elderly.
It is one of two elderly, affordable housing projects competing for a 9% housing tax credit this year from the state. However, scoring criteria for this type of competitive tax credit financed projects makes it very unlikely both projects will get an award.
The Old Hospital, located in the 300 block of East 3rd Street, has been unoccupied since the 1990’s. The shuttered grey concrete hulk lingers on in urban myth as a haunted hot spot.
In 2019, MRE Capital tried to renovate the building into an affordable housing project to be known as The Alice Lofts. The proposal was to make use of state historic and low income housing tax credits to finance a $9.5 million renovation, but the effort failed.
In late 2020, FishPond Development LLC of Austin put the real estate under contract. The seller, JW Ventures LLC, sold the 0.97-acre site to FishPond on Jan. 6. 2021.
FishPond has submitted an application for its concept, FishPond at Alice, to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs for a 9% housing tax credit award to help finance a project that involves demolition of the hospital building to make way for a new four-story residence.
Unlike the hospital building, the new structure would have a footprint that is about half that of the current structure. FishPond would reserve the rear half of the lot for a surface parking lot that could accommodate 59 vehicles. The site plan claims another 17 parking spaces could be provided by on-street parallel parking.
The Old Hospital has a height that steps down from five to four and two stories. The new structure would be an even four stories and have a gross square footage of 52,767 SF.
FishPond actually describes the new buildings as divided in two. The Type I building would have 23,544 GSF and be connected to the Type II building via a breezeway. The Type II building would have 26,899 GSF. Combined, the complex would provide 69 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartment units of which only two would be at market rate prices.
Amenities include a dog park, open space and gazebo on the east end of the lot, which is an area that was always an open and partially shaded space.
FishPond estimates the cost of demolition and asbestos abatement alone is $600,000. The estimate for site work and construction is approximately $8.2 million. Total development cost is more than $12.5 million.
The development team includes Architettura Inc. of Austin on design; Watermark Commercial Contractors LLC as general contractor; Burgess & Niple Inc. as civil engineer. If the tax credit is awarded, FishPond anticipates signing the construction loan with Regions Bank.
The Ponderosa-1907 N. Texas Blvd.
The other senior housing project being proposed is The Ponderosa, by Realtex Development Corporation, also from Austin. Realtex created a subsidiary, ATX Ponderosa Development LLC, to be the owner/developer. Their general contractor is Nations Construction LLC and their architect is Northfield Design and Associates. The civil engineer is Carney Engineering PLLC.
Site plan for The Ponderosa by Realtex Development.
The Ponderosa proposal is for a 56-unit complex serving seniors. There would be six one-story residential buildings and one two-story building with elevator. The unit mix includes 24 one-bedroom and 32 two-bedroom apartments. The total gross square footage is approximately 54,824 GSF.
The project site is roughly 14 acres. The housing and parking (158 spaces) is arranged in a kind of single-file linear formation owing to the west portion of the tract being in a floodplain.
Common area amenities include a 3,485 square-foot clubhouse with business center, fitness center, community room with kitchen, mail kiosk, pool, gazebos and barbecue areas, a dog park, walking area, covered parking options.
Green building features include low-flow toilets and faucets, energy efficient windows and appliances, low VOC paints and adhesives, eco‐friendly landscaping. All apartments will have faux wood floors, some carpet in bedrooms, granite countertops, full size washer dryer connections, walk-in closets with built-in shelving, and energy efficient ceiling fans in the living and bedroom areas.
Total construction cost is estimated at about $7.7 million. Total housing development costs are about $11.7 million.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.