Fort Worth Housing Solutions is renaming Hillside Apartments Jennings Place

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Hillside Apartments, one of the first multi-family communities built more than two decades ago during a downtown revival, will be renamed Jennings Place. Fort Worth Housing Solutions (FWHS) announced this.

Devoyd “Dee” Jennings grew up in the Rock Island Bottom and Butler Place neighborhoods, then known as “The Hill,” and was President and CEO of the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce for more than 20 years. He died on July 24th at the age of 73.

The naming of the 172-unit Craftsman-style community at 300 Crump St. after Jennings is a fitting tribute to a man who loved downtown Fort Worth and dedicated his career and volunteer work to creating an overall better city, said family members.

“Fort Worth was his city,” said Gwen Barbee, Mr. Jenning’s wife of 41 years. “Growing up in Butler, he used to tell his friends to look up the hill towards downtown because that was the future. He told them to believe that they could work hard, go to school and one day work in these office buildings. “

Mr. Jennings has been an advocate of affordable housing and the multi-family, mixed-income development strategy that has enabled Fort Worth Housing Solutions in recent years to reduce poverty and increase opportunities for its residents, said FWHS President Mary-Margaret Lemons.

Most recently, Mr. Jennings served on the FWHS Butler Place Advisory Committee to lead the future development of the former social housing site. Butler closed in December 2020.

“Dee Jennings was a true friend and collaborative leader who had the rare ability to involve everyone he met and move our community forward in unity,” said Lemons. “We are grateful for the impact he has had on Fort Worth and hope that everyone who sees the beautiful Jennings Place community on the eastern edge of downtown will pause and reflect on the positive impact it has had on Fort Worth. “

Mr Jennings was 6 years old when he moved into an apartment on Butler Place with his mother and brothers Melvin and Jerry. His father had died and Mrs. Jennings raised the three boys with the help of friends from across the ward. During those years Butler was segregated. Mr. Jennings’s childhood and adolescence revolved around the surrounding neighborhoods and IM Terrell High School, which until 1957 was the only black high school in town.

Mr. Jennings was a member of the 1965 IM Terrell State Championship basketball team, a 1966 graduate and lifelong member of the IM Terrell Alumni Association.

He attended Tarrant County College and earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from Texas Wesleyan University in 1971. Mr. Jennings served as a TXU community affairs specialist for 27 years and was the first black lobbyist for Texas Electric before joining the chamber in 2001.

“It would be humbling of him to be remembered that way,” said Margaret Jennings, Mr. Jennings’ mother, who moved to the Hillside Apartments in 2019 and lives there today. “It was a church with lots of nice people. Everyone was nice to each other. We loved living here. “

The Hillside Apartments were built in 1997 on 12 acres of land bounded by East First Street to the north, East Fourth Street to the south, Nichols Street to the east and the railroad tracks to the west.

The grounds include the historic Greater St. James Baptist Church and a former Knights of Pythias Hall that was renovated in 2013 and opened as an 18-unit FWHS shared apartment.

The property was originally funded by a partnership led by Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives Inc. The partnership secured tax credits to guarantee that 60 percent of units are reserved for families earning less than 60 percent of the median income in the region.

St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar, FWHS ‘leading housing partner in the Stop Six Choice Neighborhood Initiative, developed the Hillside Apartments. It is now managed by RPM Living, an Austin-based property management services company.

The Hillside rebranding follows other efforts to honor Mr. Jennings.

Fort Worth City Council passed a resolution on September 21 to rename the city’s Business Assistance Center in honor of Mr. Jennings.


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