The Chalmers Courts apartment complex on East Fourth Street in Austin has been around since 1939. Pio Renteria, who grew up in Austin and now represents the area around the complex on Austin City Council, said he remembers a time when people would pass by the complex and say “this is where all the poor people live at.”

“They had that stigma,” Renteria said. “If you lived here in Chalmers Courts, you were poor, and [other people] looked down on you.”

The Housing Authority of the City of Austin, which manages the complex, is working to change that stigma, along with help from partners working in development and politics. The complex is in the midst of three-phase approach that will add close to 400 rental units to Chalmers Courts and include amenities such as central air conditioning, a new plumbing and electrical system, and Google Fiber internet.

On Nov. 7, HACA announced the pivot from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of that project. The first new building to open, called Chalmers South, features 86 new units and began construction in August 2018. A ribbon cutting on Nov. 7 commemorated the opening of the building.

Chalmers residents were given right of first refusal to move across the street into the new property at 1640 E. Second St., where HACA previously had administration buildings. According to Printice Gary, partner and principal at Carleton Companies, which led the development of the project, 60 of 70 eligible residents decided to accept the offer and move to the new Chalmers South facility.

Mary Apostolou is one of those residents and also serves as the resident commissioner on HACA’s board and as the Chalmers Resident Council president.

“Everything is bigger and brighter,” Apostolou said at the ceremony.

The next phase of the project will be Chalmers East, which broke ground Nov. 7 and is set to open sometime in 2020 at 1801 E. Fourth St., followed by the final phase, Chalmers West, at the same address—scheduled to open in 2021.

HACA says at the new complex, residents will have access to workforce development, educational, and health and wellness services on-site, which will provided by community partners.

The ceremony Nov. 7 featured appearances by Renteria; Mayor Steve Adler; state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin; and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.

Rodriguez, a resident of East Austin since 1999, said projects like the new Chalmers Courts complex will “keep the fabric of a diverse community.”

Editor's Note: This story was updated to reflect the correct number of new units in the Chalmers South complex.