Blue Sky Communities, the company building SkyWay Lofts, an affordable housing project in St. Petersburg’s Skyway Marina District, has asked the city to designate the property as a Brownfield Area.
Blue Sky found contamination from an underground storage tank on the site, a report to the St. Petersburg City Council said. The tank in the past may have held conventional home heating oil, but was empty when workers found it, said Shawn Wilson, president of the Tampa-based firm. Blue Sky , which prides itself on strict adherence to all codes and regulations, will remove the tank, he said.
“The Brownfield designation allows us to fill a budget gap created by our response to this issue and properly manage any future risk, as limited as it may be,” Wilson said in an email to the St. Pete Catalyst. “In this manner, we maintain the mission to provide modern, cutting-edge affordable housing for families in need that creates an enduring platform for wellness and a gateway to economic opportunity and empowerment.”
SkyWay Lofts, which broke ground in September, is a $16.1 million development at 3900 34th St. N and 3319 39th Ave. S. It will have two buildings with 65 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments for working families and persons on fixed incomes. All of the apartments will be for tenants whose household income is 80 percent or less of the area median income.
“Construction is proceeding nicely at SkyWay Lofts and our first residents should move in later this year,” Wilson said. “Our future residents can rest assured that SkyWay Lofts will be safe due to Blue Sky’s insistence on full compliance with all relevant codes and regulations.”
Among the criteria that must be met to be designated as a Brownfield site is a requirement that the rehabilitation and redevelopment result in economic productivity of the area.
Since the project is affordable housing it is exempt from that criteria, a report from the city staff said. However, Blue Sky said the project is expected to generate $5.1 million in local income and 70 jobs during construction. After construction, it’s estimated to generate $1.6 million in local income and 20 jobs.
The City Council gave initial approval to the designation during the first of two required public hearings Thursday. The second hearing and a final vote is set for May 6. The city is not liable for the costs of site rehabilitation or any of the contamination, the city staff report said.
The Florida Brownfield program has proven to be an effective tool in ensuring that all development sites are clean, safe and protective of public health, while also bringing to the table limited but necessary financial incentives, Wilson said. “We applaud the city of St. Petersburg for participating with us in this unique state program.”