Cielo Place: A Century-Old Fort Worth Church Gets Reimagined as Mixed-Income Housing

Step inside the mixed-income residential community that fills a gap in the neighborhood's need for affordable housing—while preserving a landmark church's historical significance. Our photo tour takes you from the 1930s to the project's recent ambitious renovation and reconstruction.

The historic Riverside Baptist Church in Fort Worth is being reintroduced with a new look and name nearly 100 years after its original construction. But perhaps most important is the church’s new purpose—to be a home for the community it’s been a staple for since 1924.

Initially designed and built by architects Easterwood and Easterwood, Riverside Baptist Church was expanded in 1951 and 1958. Throughout the years, it’s played an essential role in Central Fort Worth. But on Christmas Eve 2018, Riverside Baptist hosted its last-ever service.

Riverside Baptist Church’s architectural rendering [Image: Courtesy Saigebrook Development]

That’s because Austin-based Saigebrook Development, along with Irving-based Accolade Property Management, set out to reimagine the church as a mixed-income residential community that would fill a gap in the neighborhood’s critical need for affordable housing.

The result is Cielo Place: A redevelopment that sits at the intersection of thoughtful historical preservation and carefully curated modern amenities.

“Cielo Place provided a unique opportunity to preserve history while creating new opportunities for the community,” Lisa Stephens, owner and president of Saigebrook Development, said in a statement. “A lot of hard work and care went into the development plan and it presented a variety of learning opportunities for our team.”

Offering 91 units with a mix of studio, bedroom, and bathroom options

At 3111 Race Street, Cielo Place houses 91 units with a mix of studio, bedroom, and bathroom options. Residents have access to fully furnished clubhouse spaces, which include a community room, business center, leasing offices, fitness center, and cyber lounge. There are also outdoor areas featuring a playground, pocket parks, gathering spaces, and bicycle parking.

Sprinkled around Cielo Place are remnants of the building’s past life.

Saigebrook Development, a real estate development consulting firm focused on affordable housing communities throughout the Southeast, tapped Miller-Slayton Architects and Ink & Oro, an interior design firm, to maintain the integrity of the historical architecture. The goal was to keep—or restore—elements in the space, with modern amenities intertwined throughout.

Riverside Baptist Church in 1939 after an expansion. [Image: Courtesy Saigebrook Development]

Many elements are small, but intentional, the companies say, as they set out to harken pieces back to their original purpose and design.

Outside the building, passersby will catch a glimpse of the church’s original stained glass windows and exterior facade. Inside, the light fixtures, some woodwork, and classroom numbers were preserved or restored.

But the centerpiece of historical preservation is Cielo Place’s common area—what some might fall the heart of the project. The developers left several rows of pews, the original altar and baptismal, and the stained-glass window behind it all completely untouched.

The clubhouse will be available for local requests and needs, inviting the neighborhood “into this little piece of heaven.”

“As we peeled back the layers of this building,” Stephens said, “we also peeled back layers of history and learned so much about the history of this church, and the community that has gathered here over the years.”

Riverside Baptist Church in 1951 [Image: Courtesy Saigebrook Development]

Garnering community support

The redevelopment project has so far been welcomed with open arms, according to Saigebrook Development. Residents feared the building’s legacy and neighborhood significance would be washed away when it was inevitably replaced by upscale housing or offices. 

Saigebrook Development and consultant, O-SDA Industries, which is committed to solving affordable housing issues in Texas, took steps to ensure the historical significance of the building was being upheld.

The process became evermore important when last year the property received a historic designation through the National Register for Historic Places.

After a lengthy redevelopment, the beloved structure remains. It now holds a vitally needed affordable housing development within a neighborhood facing climbing housing costs that are pushing decades-old residents out. Ninety-one families are now calling the church home.

Accolade Property Management, a full service real estate management firm, pre-leased 100 percent of the building in about 60 days.

Ribbon cutting set for Dec. 16

On Dec. 16 at 10 a.m., Saigebrook Development, O-SDA Industries, Accolade Property Management, and city officials will celebrate the official unveiling of Cielo Place with a groundbreaking ceremony, ribbon cutting, and light brunch. Community members are welcome.

Meanwhile, here’s a virtual photo gallery tour of the project’s construction: 

[Photo: Saigebrook Development]

[Photo: Saigebrook Development]

[Photo: Saigebrook Development]

[Photo: Saigebrook Development]

[Photo: Saigebrook Development]

[Photo: Saigebrook Development]

[Photo: Saigebrook Development]

[Photo: Saigebrook Development]

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