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Former Wedgwood Apartments to become Ensemble Apartments, remain for seniors

Ensemble adding fire safety measures that Wedgwood did not have

CASTLE HILLS, Texas – The iconic building at Blanco Road and Loop 410 that has drawn curious gazes from passers-by over the last several years now has plans for the future.

The Wedgwood Apartments have sat empty since December 2014, when they caught fire, causing the deaths of five senior residents.

The former Wedgwood will become the Ensemble Apartments, which are slated to open in December 2019.

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Pat Biernacki, with Millennial Residential, the developer behind Ensemble, said Wednesday that the apartments will be built according to current codes and will include multiple fire sprinklers in every unit as well as in hallways and common spaces.

The Wedgwood did not have fire sprinklers because it was grandfathered in due to the age of the building when the city of Castle Hills began requiring the sprinklers.

“We'll be installing a fire command center in the building, which gives the Fire Department full access to all the building's systems if there was a fire,” Biernacki said.

He said the doors to access the stairwells will be replaced and will feature slam bars to give residents easy access during an emergency.

Wedgwood residents said that, at the time of the fire, they could not open some of the doors to the stairwells.

Ensemble will remain a home for residents 55 years of age and older.

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Biernacki said some of the features of the Wedgwood will remain because of the historical designation of the building.

Some of the people living at Ensemble may be the same people, too.

“If you lived in the building at the time of the fire, prior to the fire, we'll rent to you at the same rate you were at (at) the time of the fire,” Biernacki said Wednesday.

The Ensemble will feature signatures of “mid-century modern redo,” Biernacki said, and will offer modern, shared kitchen space that residents can rent out and use to entertain guests.

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While the look of the apartments will change, the history of the Wedgwood won’t soon be forgotten.

“It’s the most important thing that we're trying to do right, is to make sure that this building is a great and safe place to live going forward,” Biernacki said.

The Ensemble Apartments will open in December 2019.

As the plans for Ensemble were unveiled Wednesday, the Castle Hills Fire Department had an unveiling of its own as Chief Darrell Dover showed off a new ladder truck the city purchased, which has a 100-foot ladder.

At the time of the fire at the Wedgewood, CHFD had a ladder truck with a 75-foot ladder that could not reach the 11th floor, which is the top floor, of the building.

“With this truck now, we have the ability to reach the 11th floor if we needed to,” Dover said. “We can actually reach the top floor of every building in Castle Hills now.”


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