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Here’s a twist: St. Pete neighborhood welcomes affordable housing project

Margie Manning

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A rendering of the Butterfly apartments planned for Historic Uptown

Pinellas Affordable Living Inc. plans to build 20 apartments for low-income and homeless people with special needs in the Historic Uptown neighborhood north of downtown St. Petersburg.

The new development will replace two existing buildings — one of them boarded up — that have provided similar housing for over two decades.

The St. Petersburg Development Review Commission unanimously approved the project after Kristy Andersen, president of the Historic Uptown Neighborhood Association, said the association supports it, provided the building design is consistent with other structures in the neighborhood.

“We really want this in our neighborhood. I’ll bet you haven’t heard that, have you?” Andersen told the Development Review Commission on Sept. 4. She added one caveat: “We think it’s important that this building is seamless in our neighborhood … It’s really important that it looks like it belongs in our neighborhood.”

The developer doesn’t object to design input from the neighborhood, Don Mastry, a shareholder at Trenam Law representing Pinellas Affordable Living, told the commission.

Pinellas Affordable Living is a Community Housing Development Organization and a sister organization to Boley Centers Inc., a St. Petersburg-based nonprofit that serves people with mental disabilities, the homeless, veterans and youth. Boley has owned the two properties at the site — Butterfly Apartments at 715 5th Ave. N. and Grove Street Apartments at 506 Grove St. N. —  for the past 24 years. Boley recently transferred ownership to Pinellas Affordable Living, which plans to demolish both buildings.

The new multi-family development, also named Butterfly, will have two, three-story buildings with a total of 20 one-bedroom apartments. Construction costs will be about $2.7 million, with the total value of the project at completion about $3.1 million, according to the application approved by the DRC.

The commission agreed the project could qualify for new parking standards that were approved by the St. Petersburg City Council last week. Those standards lower the number of parking spaces required for workforce and affordable housing and for housing near transit routes.

Pinellas Affordable Living received a construction award from the Florida Housing Finance Corp., which requires a 50-year commitment to the project, said Jack Humburg, executive director. In its application to the state agency, Pinellas Affordable Living said at least 80 percent of the new apartments would be for adults with special needs, primarily people disabled by mental illness, with priority for the homeless.

Homelessness is not a new issue for the Historic Uptown neighborhood – an area generally between 4th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. and 5th Avenue and 9th Avenue North — Andersen said in an interview with the St. Pete Catalyst.

“The buildings have been there so long and haven’t been a problem,” she said. “We are a compassionate neighborhood and we also want the density that brings things like mass transit.”

The neighborhood is full of millennials, Andersen said. “I think because they’ve traveled and seen the homeless everywhere, they are more accepting of it.”

Andersen also is on the board of Volunteers of America, an organization that builds housing for the homeless.

“The answer to homelessness is home. You’ve got to get people off the street,” Andersen said. “We hope that this will be good for our neighborhood – and I hope they will change a few things that make it look less institutional and more like a home.”

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    Evelyn Rhodes

    September 13, 2019at11:09 pm

    It’s more than just people with mental issues that are homeless. There are also disabled people whom is homeless, but with no mental illness. You can’t just keep building places for just the mentally ill!

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