Avalon at Kessler Park apartments to cater to diverse array of residents, including LGBT seniors

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Avalon, Oak Cliff

ALL ARE WELCOME | Avalon at Kessler Park wants a diverse range of residents, including LGBT seniors. Pictured are project manager David Krukiel, developer Richard Seib and complex manager Jeff Benton. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice).

When Avalon at Kessler Park opened in Oak Cliff on April 30, it billed itself as Dallas’ first senior living apartment complex actively welcoming the LGBT community.

Having safe housing for the older LGBT community has been a goal of many in the community for years. In 1997, Robert Voelkle formed the Silver Hope Project at Cathedral of Hope. The senior housing project never got off the ground, but Voelkle met Richard Seib who owns a number of small assisted living homes from Oak Cliff to Plano. Seib ran with the idea.

Seib is a longtime Oak Cliff resident who welcomed the influx of gays and lesbians into the community that helped upgrade and restore the older neighborhoods.

Avalon reflects Oak Cliff’s diversity, officials with the development said. While the first couple that moved in was gay, the next resident was a 100-year-old African-American woman.

Voelkle called the property a good mix.

“It’s for straight people who say they want to be in a place where there’s creativity and be around people who are more fun, and for gay people who don’t want to be only around screaming queens. This is the ideal situation,” he said.

Kee Holt runs the GLBT Aging Interest Network program at Resource Center Dallas. He recently toured the property.

“If a man or woman has to go into assisted living, they have to go back into the closet,” he said.

He said that when he first began working at the Resource Center, he called around to area senior facilities. They either hung up on him or told him they didn’t deal with LGBT seniors.

Holt said that one even told him, by the time someone moves into senior housing, “they’ve outgrown that.” He said that this was a first of its kind for Texas and one of the few available anywhere in the country.

Chan Edmondson and John Sobieski, who have been together for 23 years, were Avalon’s first residents.

“We initially heard about Avalon at a presentation to GAIN at Texas Land and Cattle. We moved her within 30 day,” Edmondson said.

To actively attract the gay community, Seib did a number of things. He hired openly gay property manager Jeff Benton. Since opening, GAIN was invited for a recent tour of the property.

But Seib added some subtle touches as well. The property’s logo is a simple six-color fabric stripe. Seib said his straight residents have commented on the attractive design while his gay residents caught the rainbow pattern.

Because the project received federal housing money, residency is age restricted.

“If you have a partner 62 or older you can live here,” Seib said.

A number of amenities are designed with seniors in mind. Elevators announce the floor, particularly helpful to people with macular degeneration. Carpets on each level are trimmed in different colors, helpful for older adults to recognize their floor. Everything is handicap-accessible.

Apartments feature granite countertops and black on black GE appliances. Other amenities include a well-appointed media room, Wii stations, a java bar, a library, a wine-tasting room and a great room for catered meals or parties.

A fitness center, a business center and a hair salon are available and scheduled transportation for those who no longer drive takes groups shopping or to doctor’s appointments.

Apartments are priced from $1,000 to $1,600 per month. And with its Fort Worth Avenue location at the top of the climb up to Oak Cliff, upper floors offer great downtown views.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.