Silver Hope Project reaches dead-end

Posted on 07 Dec 2006 at 8:48pm
By David Webb Staff Writer

LGBT retirement center plans shelved indefinitely



Robert Voelkle, left, coordinator of the Silver Hope Project, internationally known Dallas architect Dr. Frank Rees and prominent real estate agent Lory Masters were confident in 2003 that construction would begin on a gay and lesbian retirement community in Dallas within two years. They acknowledged this week the project has stalled, and its future appears bleak.

Plans for constructing a nonprofit gay and lesbian retirement facility in the Metroplex are at a standstill, according to the coordinator of the project.

Robert Voelkle, who promised in April 2003 that the Silver Hope Project was on the brink of happening said this week that progress stopped two years ago. He initially had estimated construction would begin within about two years.

The project’s board of directors no longer meets, and its Web site is no longer on the Internet.

“We were never able to connect with the people in Dallas who are movers and shakers in the gay world and the ones who have money and are interested,” Voelkle said. “None of my country cousins in our double-wides are able to attract them. We have some good ideas, but we just don’t have that kind of money.”

Voelkle was optimistic when internationally known Dallas architect Dr. Frank Rees of Rees & Associates signed on the project as a short-term investor and prominent Dallas real estate agent Lory Masters agreed to help connect Voelkle to the right people. Rees and Masters joined Voelkle for the announcement at Rees’ office.

“I messed around with Lory Masters for about three years and found out she was nothing but a big puff of wind,” Voelkle said. “She talks a lot, but she doesn’t do anything.”

Masters said in a statement that she and others accomplished much in an effort to bring the project to fruition.

“Large projects, investments and developments are extremely complex, time consuming, expensive and most often exhausting even to those with a passion for them,” Masters said. “The Gay/Lesbian retirement center that so many of us worked on, so very long and hard, is still a dream that I hope will someday be a reality.”

Masters said she flew to Nashville to meet with a management company that Rees felt would meet the need, flew the management team to Dallas for several meet-and-greet events, held many luncheons at the Crescent Club for community leaders to gain feedback, spent “endless hours” and much “pulling out of hair” on developing a brochure and met with attorneys, developers, commercial land brokers, architects and bankers.

“And I could go on with much more,” Masters said. “The magnitude of the project, the site location, the cost and the thousands of details are staggering, but Dallas needs this and no one is more disappointed that I that it is still just a hope and a dream for the Dallas gay and lesbian community.

“I feel that the biggest problem that Dr. Rees and I ran into is land cost and where this community might be located. Then there was the fact that everyone that we met with, outside of our own community leaders, wanted to make a mega profit. I hate it when that happens,” Masters said.

Voelkle said Rees still calls him about the project occasionally. The architect advised him of an investor who wanted to talk, but that was for a commercial project not nonprofit, he said.

One influential gay Dallas business leader advised him that the city’s elite gay men and lesbians would be uninterested in a LGBT retirement village, Voelkle said. “When you really look at the big picture, the people who have the money and live on Turtle Creek have lived a very quiet life,” Voelkle said. “They’re not flamboyant queens. They never have been. They’ve got lots of money. They can afford to live anywhere they want to live. So they’re really not interested in it.”

Voelkle said those people could live in any upscale retirement facility and not raise an eyebrow. The other factor is denial, Voelkle said. It’s an attitude of “people are never going to get old, and they are never going to need these services,” he said.

Voelkle said the only real interest has been from people who want to see affordable housing constructed for gay and lesbian retirees.

“The real interest has been in affordable housing, and this is not a cheap project,” Voelkle said. “This is a top drawer project.”

Voelkle said in 2003 he was hoping to get 150 people to put up $1,000 deposits so he could go to a financial institution to get the “other millions needed to do this with.”

The project Voelkle envisioned would operate as a nonprofit project in order to assist needy residents. It would have included homes, condominiums and rental apartments, plus amenities such as a swimming pool and clubhouse.

After nine years of working on the project, Voelkle said he is almost finished with it.

“I’ve talked to groups,” Voelkle said. “I’ve done this. I’ve done that. But nothing has happened. I’m stubborn, but even so, I can eventually catch on. When the horse is dead, get off.”

Voelkle said all of the legal papers with the articles of incorporation and nonprofit status is complete. The only thing needed now to kick it off is money specifically $50,000 for a feasibility study, he said.

“Does Dallas really want this?” Voelkle said. “Some people need to step forward if they do.”

Masters said she believes the community does want it. “When the stars are aligned properly perhaps a group will form to follow through with the plans,” Masters said.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 20, 2006.

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