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City, school employee housing project receives $3 million

Mark Parker

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A rendering of the completed development at 4201 6th St. S. Image provided.

Local government subsidies will now account for over a third of the cost of developing 60 affordable and workforce housing units in South St. Petersburg.

Bruce Bussey, Pinellas County’s community development director, said the funding prevents the $17 million project from becoming a market-rate development. Commissioners unanimously approved allocating $2.8 million to the Bayou Boulevard Apartments Tuesday (Jan. 17).

In November, Tyler Herbert, a founding partner with Gravel Road Partners, told St. Petersburg’s City Council that his firm would prioritize applications from school district and municipal employees. In a recent email to the county commission, he said construction could commence March 1, pending its approval.

“We continue to struggle with the overall costs of these projects,” County Administrator Barry Burton said Tuesday. “The subsidy necessary to meet these income thresholds continues to rise.”

The Bayou Boulevard Apartments property at 4201 6th Street South borders Lakewood Elementary School to its north and the much-delayed Coquina Key Plaza redevelopment to its west. Gravel Road Partners (GRP) received city graywater and affordable housing density bonuses to build 60 units on the 2.3-acre site.

Income thresholds vary, with 12 units reserved for those making just 50% of the area median income (AMI), currently $39,150 for a family of three. Nine are for households earning below 80% of the AMI, and 39 workforce apartments are capped at 120%, or $93,960 for a three-person household.

However, those income limits come at taxpayers’ expense. The total local government subsidy is $92,333 per unit.

“The City of St. Petersburg really stepped up,” Burton said. “We couldn’t do this on our own.”

The county’s largest municipality contributed $2.74 million. GRP applied for $3 million in Penny for Pinellas tax funding, with administrators recommending $2.8 million in construction assistance.

County documents show the project application received 78 out of 220 points. Listed strengths included “local government assistance funding sources, project location and the utilization of mixed incomes.”

GRP has secured $8.6 million in lender financing and will contribute $2.9 million to the project, about half of the subsidized amount. County and city coffers will cover about 32% of the total development cost.

“A third of the cost for a 20-year commitment on affordable housing,” said Commissioner Dave Eggers. “It just doesn’t seem enough. But if St. Petersburg is doing 30 years or longer … we need to know that information in this meeting moving forward.”

A map showing the project’s proximity to Lakewood Elementary School and the Coquina Key Plaza. Screengrab.

According to previous city documents, the project carries a minimum 30-year affordability mandate. Bussey said the various income restrictions can expire at different times, and a management company must ensure it meets the most stringent guidelines.

He also explained that most developers seek to rehabilitate and renovate projects after 15 years. “That’s typically an opportunity that by bond financing and additional assistance, we could extend that affordability period,” Bussey said.

“At that point, it’s a 20-year-old apartment complex and the current terminology is ‘naturally occurring affordable housing.'”

In November, city officials credited Washington, D.C.-based GRP for its local development team. Project partners include Place Architecture, Park & Eleazor Construction, Osborn Civil Engineering, WGI Structural Engineering and Carteret Property Management.

Herbert told city council members that “all we do is public-private partnerships.” He also said GRP was ready to break ground in February.

“We’ve got all the subs (contractors) bought, so we don’t run the risk – like many projects today – of construction price increases over the next several months,” Herbert said. “Debt and equity are already secured, and we are ready to roll.”

GRP should now break ground in March with the recently approved county funding.

 

 

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