Homeless no more in Dallas 'vertical neighborhood'




Posted on March 25, 2010 at 11:29 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 26 at 12:03 PM

DALLAS — Sitting outside, Ann Hawthorne Brumfield looks more like the nurse she was before her knees gave out than the homeless person she is today.

"I decided I'd run my own life, and I ran it into the ground," she said. "Spent all my money and wound up broke."

Now, after two years in the Dallas Life homeless shelter, Brumfield is going to be part of something new, something better.

She's about to get the first look at her new home: Unit 504 in CityWalk @ Akard, a downtown condominium with a difference.

Brumfield bounced up and down on her new bed like a little kid. It's been two years since she's had a private bathroom, or any privacy at all.

"This will give me an opportunity to live again," she said. "When you are homeless, you fade into a nothingness."

Only 25 percent of the 200 rooms in the building at 511 North Akard Street will go the homeless; the rest are reserved for regular folks.

And on the top floors of the building, there are six large, high-end condos — complete with outdoor terraces.

Those units have all been pre-sold to folks like architect Robert Colburn. He designed this project, and realized the former homeless make good neighbors.

"A great part of that was visiting similar projects in New York City, and getting a feel for the facilities and the people that live there, and the lifestyle that they had," Colburn said. "I found that I could be very comfortable with that."

So what exactly is CityWalk @ Akard? "A 'vertical neighborhood,'" said Larry James of Central Dallas Ministries, which spent the past five years remaking the building. "Mixed-use, mixed income, and it's going to be a great place to live."

Ironically, the homeless used to sleep in this same building over the two decades that it sat empty.

Now, everything is new inside; a new place to call home.

"How great is my God?" Brumfield asked as she gazed out the window of her new apartment.

The CityWalk condos sold for up to $350,000, but they have now all been spoken for.

There are some apartments left, but there are more people on the waiting list than there units still unfilled.

E-mail greaves@wfaa.com