By Elizabeth Lenart
Sunny skies set the tone for a perfect celebration on November 17 as more than 125 guests gathered for a monumental celebration at Juliette Fowler Communities. Festivities observed the 130th anniversary of the beloved housing community in East Dallas and the dedication of its newest building, The Peak, a $24 million, 144-unit, three-story independent living senior housing community. The Peak addresses a national crisis — housing for the “forgotten middle” senior, who can neither afford higher-priced apartments nor qualify for lower-income housing. It is estimated that the middle-income senior population is expected to double by 2029 to 14.35 million (all 75 or more), with only 46 percent able to afford any form of senior housing. The Peak will provide residents a welcoming neighborhood of friends and the many benefits of living in a community. Juliette Fowler Communities President and CEO Nicole Gann kicked off the festivities welcoming guests to the tented affair complete with fried chicken picnic basket lunches, as was done for Fowler’s very first building dedication in 1905. JFC received its state charter in 1892, and before construction began on the Fowler’s East Dallas property, its first building, Faith Cottage, was in Grand Prairie.
“Our first newly constructed building was called Faith Cottage because our organization at that time chose to build when all they had was faith in God and faith in the generosity of His people,” said Nicole Gann. “Like our predecessors, we have been moving forward for 130 years in faith, with the knowledge and charge to care for God’s people.”
Guests were each invited to take home two items as keepsakes for this momentous occasion: a picnic basket full of goodies as well as a seat cushion containing a picnic blanket. Following a blessing from The Rev. Dr. Andy Mangum, regional minister for Christian Church of the Southwest, guests enjoyed lunch, followed by the program, dedication service and tours of The Peak.
Gann returned to the podium to thank those in the room, each of whom has made a contribution “as a friend, neighbor, donor, board member or as a Peak partner.” Special thanks were given to the event underwriters: USI Southwest, Luther King Capital Management, Robert Holt, East Dallas Christian Church, Regions Bank, Spring Valley Construction, and Northway Christian Church.
JFC Board Chair Ben Brooks then welcomed Max Sanchez, council liaison and policy advisor for District 14 from the Mayor and City of Dallas Council Office, who presented a proclamation declaring November 17 as Juliette Fowler Communities Day to the applause and cheers of the guests. Brooks then thanked the Dallas City Council. “Without their endorsement of our application for a state tax credit, we would not have The Peak and would not be sitting here today,” said Brooks. “For years we dreamed of what to do with our seven undeveloped acres trying to determine what was the greatest need for the community.”
He continued by recognizing the board, including beloved late board member Roland Bandy, whose leadership was instrumental in this success as well as many other successes over the years. He recognized the partners who have worked with Fowler for many years to make this dream a reality: ARX Advantage Consulting, CA Partners, Caltech, Cole Engineering, Digital Way Services, Direct Supply, Intervest, Katus Design Group, Locke & Lord, Lument, Mason Joseph Company, National Equity Fund, NCS, Robinette & Associates, Shepherd Food Equipment, and Spring Valley Construction.
Robbie Meyer of ARX Advantage presented a gift to Fowler team members Nicole Gann, COO Billie Collins, and CFO Scott Martinez to acknowledge the success of completing The Peak. Engraved on the crystal was “Dreams Do Come True,” as Fowler referred to that land for many years as its field of dreams.
Brooks thanked the Frame the Future Capital Campaign Committee, who led the charge to raise the funds: Chair Carol Maxwell, Roland Bandy, Ken Hubbell, Gray Powers, Cindy Wabner, Lacey Young, Nicole Gann, and Ann McKinley. He highlighted the fact that the 2019 Dallas tornado played a role in Fowler’s ability to build the Peak. “This act of nature opened a door for this part of North Texas, enabling Fowler to apply for a specific type of funding to build housing for an underserved community, fast forwarding the vision of The Peak. We give thanks for the blessing that grew from this tragedy.”
Nicole Gann recognized former presidents of Fowler who were in attendance: Cindy Dowell, wife of former president, the late Ed Dowell; former President Kay Ellis; and former President Sabrina Porter. She then explained why the building is called The Peak. “Historically, our namesake, Juliette Fowler was a member of the Peak family,” added Gann. “Peak was her maiden name. The Peak family members were Dallas pioneers, and many streets of East Dallas are named for her siblings. Naming the building The Peak was a nod to our past, our pioneering history, and it also represents our vision, our hopes for those who will live here — to have moments of elevation that rise above the everyday — moments of engagement, joy, and motivation — the peaks.”
Gann recognized one of The Peak’s first donors, Annie Jones, who lives on the campus in Fowler Christian Apartments. Jones, a pioneer herself, is a well-known advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.
“Annie is someone who inspires us daily with her love for all people and her unquestionable generosity,” added Gann. Gann continued, saying that due to Annie’s love for frogs, “we have commissioned an artist to fashion a frog that will be at Fowler in perpetuity in your honor.”
Before inviting Rev. Vanessa Harmel to lead the dedication service, Gann added that a Bible had also been buried in the porte cochere to symbolize our “foundational faith.” Following the dedication, guests were invited to “take a peek at The Peak,” and take a tour. Every unit is dedicated to housing for the “forgotten middle” senior with no market-rate apartments offered, making The Peak a unique Dallas living community focused on addressing a national housing crisis of affordable senior housing and supportive services for this population.
Amenities include a library, fitness program and gym, business center, courtyard, and access to an onsite chaplain, chapel, art room, pool, community gardens, and walking trails. Additionally, an onsite service coordinator will be available to assist with transportation, food, and other needs, including aging support and navigation of healthcare. The first resident is scheduled to move in this month.
Attendees included Evelyn Amaya and Brenda Martinez Del Rio, on behalf of Dallas Councilmember Jesse Moreno; Karen Roberts, Mount Auburn Neighborhood Association; Emily Somerville, president of the Junior League of Dallas; Kimberly Taliaferro, vice president, Regions Bank; and Steve Bruszer, Spring Valley Construction Co. lead.