At the corner of Fletcher Avenue and Horne Street in west Fort Worth’s Como neighborhood is a single-story house spanning about 1,100 square feet, with a porch and screen door at the front, much like the houses beside it.
No one lives there, though, because it’s not being used as a house at all – the house serves as the Como campus of HOPE Farm Inc., an educational nonprofit that offers academic, character building and leadership programs to at-risk boys from elementary through high school (HOPE Farm’s main campus is in the Morningside neighborhood off Interstate 35 West). Michael Morris, director of HOPE Farm in Como, said the house can hold about 16 students, and sometimes prospects have to be put on a waiting list due to a lack of space.
But HOPE Farm is looking to change that. The group plans to move out of the house and build an approximately 7,000 square-foot facility at 5532 Shiloh Drive that can hold about 60 students. A general contractor is yet to be selected, but Fort Worth companies Schwarz-Hanson Architects and engineering firm Baird, Hampton & Brown, Inc., are on board to help build the roughly $1.5 million project. The building will have classrooms, offices and a kitchen among other amenities, as well as a counseling center with resources to help single parents.
“The trajectory of many of these boys’ lives is going to change,” Morris said. “They’re going to realize the possibilities that they never would’ve thought were in their reach.”
Finding a new place wasn’t easy. The discussion to move out of the house began about three years ago. Morris said HOPE Farm was determined to keep the facility in the Como area.
The first spot they found wasn’t far from the house, just down Horne Street near Farnsworth Avenue. But when some property owners weren’t willing to sell their land for the campus, HOPE Farm went looking elsewhere.
The group found another patch of land on Helmick Avenue, and at first, Morris said HOPE Farm “felt really good” about the location. The problem was, the land was zoned residential and needed community facilities zoning to allow for a campus to be built. HOPE Farm applied for the new zoning, but when residents of the nearby neighborhoods heard of the plans, many spoke against the rezoning at the Zoning Commission’s May 2015 meeting. Many of the residents weren’t against HOPE Farm completely. They liked HOPE Farm’s mission; what they didn’t like was the idea of having more traffic and an educational facility in the middle of a neighborhood.
So the city denied the rezoning, and HOPE Farm was back to looking for another place.
“We started looking for other potential sites and it’s not easy,” said Bill Baird, principal and civil engineer at Baird, Hampton & Brown, which helped HOPE Farm through the land process. “We were looking for something where the zoning might be appropriate, but we couldn’t find anything.”
Then HOPE Farm found empty land on Shiloh Drive, half a block north of Vickery Boulevard. Like the Helmick location, the area was zoned residential and needed to be rezoned to community facilities. This zoning change, however, faced no opposition during the Zoning Commission’s June 2016 meeting. Both the Zoning Commission and City Council approved the rezoning, and now HOPE Farm’s plans are moving forward.
No construction date has been set, but the plan is to break ground in the fall and open in summer 2017, Baird said.
Vernell Clardy, whose 12-year-old grandson Darvern has attended HOPE Farm since he was six, said she’s happy to see HOPE Farm growing. She raises her grandson and said he used to struggle with anger issues until HOPE Farm stepped in. Now she hopes the new campus will allow HOPE Farm to help more in the community, the same way the organization helped her grandson.
“I can really see the difference in him,” she said. “I really appreciate the men that work at this program because they’re really dedicated. They love the children, and the children love them and respect them.”
865 E. Ramsey Ave.
Fort Worth 76104