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Commissioners OK funds for new affordable housing project at former fire station

Veronica Brezina

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The former fire station at 610 Franklin Street in Clearwater. GoogleMaps.

A former fire station in Clearwater will become the site of a $28.1 million affordable housing project.  

Tuesday, the Pinellas County Commission unanimously approved a funding request of over $2 million for a new 81-unit affordable housing development in downtown Clearwater. 

However, the commissioners questioned the significant funding ask from developer Blue Sky Communities, the Tampa-based affordable housing development group that’s building the nine-story Blue Dolphin Tower project. 

The $2 million ask went before the commission so the developer can acquire the land, officials said. The site houses the former fire station, Station 45, which has stood empty for years. 

They also informed the commissioners that the Community Redevelopment Agency owns the property at 610 Franklin Street. The CRA purchased the land from the city, and Blue Sky is under contract to buy it. 

Blue Sky pursued the site several years ago following the city’s request for proposals. 

The city initially intended to develop the property into a retail site. The city received interest from the Church of Scientology, which proposed building a community center, as the site is adjacent to the church’s existing 300,000-square-foot Flag Building. However, the church’s proposal was ultimately rejected and Clearwater issued a new call aimed toward developers who could build an affordable housing project on the site. 

When Blue Sky Communities’ proposal surfaced, it was said to be a “no-brainer of development deals,” Amanda Thompson, director of the city’s CRA, told the commissioners. 

“We’ve been on a journey where we’ve been through the lottery process twice and Blue Sky was successful the second time,” she said. “We are counting on the funding from the sale of this property that will go toward two more projects.” 

She explained the $2 million funds for acquiring the site would go into a land trust, and therefore would likely be funneled toward other affordable housing developments. 

The funding sources for Blue Sky’s project are listed as $17 million in competitive tax credits for low-income housing projects, which it received last year, $1 million from State Housing Initiatives Partnership grant funds and over $1 million from the Penny for Pinellas affordable housing budget.

The CRA has also committed $300,000 to the project. 

The units at Blue Dolphin Tower will be available to those who earn between 30% to 80% of the area median income (AMI), which is between $20,000 and $55,000. Documents state 13 of the units will be restricted to those who earn 30% of the AMI and 56 units restricted to those who earn 60% of the AMI. 

Shawn Wilson, the founder of Blue Sky Communities, said he has been working on this project for over two years and plans to break ground in November or December. 

Blue Sky Communities has worked on numerous projects in Pinellas County. Its first project was Duval Park, an 88-unit complex located in the Lealman Redevelopment Area that serves veterans and working families. 

During the meeting, the county commissioners also approved the $4 million funding ask from Archway Partners for its Seminole Square Apartments. 

The 96-unit complex, in Largo at 2075 Seminole Boulevard, will cost over $27.5 million to build. 

The apartment units will serve households earning at or below 80% of the AMI, with 34 of the units restricted to those earning 30% of the AMI, and 11 of the units restricted to those earning 60% of the AMI.

“We took a step today to make sure that 177 families of Pinellas County would have a better opportunity to have a place to call home,” Commissioner Charlie Justice said, referring to the two projects. 

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Warren

    February 9, 2022at4:27 pm

    Interesting to see how the church stops this one?

  2. Avatar

    KAREN J. DOUGLAS

    February 9, 2022at4:28 pm

    Why is the County Commission involved in this? I am missing something…..Shouldn’t it be the Clearwater City Commission?

  3. Avatar

    Erik G

    February 10, 2022at9:08 am

    Great 👍 work 👏 I am a taxpayer and I believe that the down town area is under represented by all walks of life and it would be good to see a better use of that part of downtown, helping the people 😀.

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