An aerial view of the Oak Lawn Place construction site (Photo courtesy of Resource Center)

Construction of Oak Lawn Place is expected to take a year

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Resource Center is holding a ceremonial ground breaking for Oak Lawn Place, its new senior housing facility this morning (Friday, May 12), but work crews have actually already been working on clearing the land for a few weeks now, preparing the property for construction.

The $4 million capital campaign to build the senior housing project was launched in December 2020. According to a statement at the time, Resource Center undertook the project to “meet the growing demand for affordable housing and care and services for the aging lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning population in the Dallas community.”

“We are seeing and serving a larger number of LGBTQIA+ seniors, most of whom have been discriminated against and marginalized for much of their lives,” said Cece Cox, Resource Center CEO. “As a result, they are less likely to have accumulated wealth or to have biological family that will care for them as they age. They also face unique medical challenges that require informed and affirming care.

“Oak Lawn Place will help provide all of those things,” Cox continued. Developing the first LGBTQIA+ affirming senior housing development will support not only our community but also directly addresses the immense shortfall of affordable housing in Dallas.”

Resource Center partnered with Volunteers of America and developer Matthews Southwest to design and build the project.

Resource Center CEO Cece Cox helps with cleanup shortly after the center acquired the property that will become Oak Lawn Place. (Photo courtesy of Resource Center)

Volunteers of America is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit providers of quality, affordable housing. Angela King, who is married to the Rev. Carol West, is president and CEO of Volunteers of America Texas.

Matthews Southwest’s local projects include Dallas High School’s redevelopment into office and retail space and turning Southside on Lamar from warehouses into residential space.

By the time the project was announced in 2020, the property had been purchased, and the capital campaign had already hit the $1 million mark.

Although society has become more accepting, many LGBTQ seniors have been forced back into the closet when they retire and go to live with relatives or go into assisted living.

“The added stress of dealing with decades of discrimination [puts] LGBTQ older adults at risk of physical and mental illness and other conditions, such as chronic diseases, depression, disability, poor nutrition, high premature mortality and social isolation,” Resource Center noted in a press release at the time of the announcement of its senior living facility.

Resource Center’s goal with this housing project is to “transform the way LGBTQ older adults live, access services and develop community support for generations to come” by proving affirming opportunities for socialization, recreation and emotional support.

The project will include an 84-unit building with amenities and open green space on the two-acre site that sits one block from Inwood Road and Denton Drive Cutoff. That location provides easy access to DART at Inwood Station and is about a half mile from Resource Centers LGBTQ Community Center, where its Thrive program offers senior activities.

The overall budget for the project is $23 million, which includes public funding from state and local sources and private mortgage financing that will be paid back through rental income, in addition to money raised in the capital campaign. Additional money for the project will come in the form of low income housing tax credits.

Rent will be based on income. Most residents are expected to be on fixed incomes. Some will likely supplement their incomes with part-time jobs. A formula based on income will determine the rental rate rather than the landlord.

The need for the facility grew out of a lack of affordable housing in the Oak Lawn area. So much of what was affordable in the area has been poorly maintained, and much of it has been torn down and replaced with “luxury” apartments.

According to statistics provided by Resource Center, North Texas is home to 13,246 LGBTQ seniors, and that number is expected to double in the next 10 years and triple by 2050. Coalition for Aging LGBT, a North Texas-based senior services organization with a specialty of senior housing, found in a survey that the biggest need for LGBTQ seniors is affordable transitional housing with appropriate, respectful care.

Cox said Dallas isn’t the first city to build senior housing, and plans for Oak Lawn Place were based on the best of what she saw at eight other LGBTQ properties in six cities across the country.

While not all LGBTQ people live in Oak Lawn, Cox felt it was important to locate her agency’s first senior project in the Gayborhood to honor the historic importance the area serves to the community. She said at the time the property was acquired they were very lucky to have found the parcel of land so close to the community center.

The project is expected to take about a year to build.