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Local leaders celebrate Jordan Park’s rebirth

Mark Parker

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The opening of the Legacy at Jordan Park marks the completion of $93 million redevelopment project. Photos by Mark Parker.

After years of despair and debate, St. Petersburg’s first public housing community – and the seniors who call it home – have a new lease on life.

Municipal, Pinellas County and federal officials celebrated the opening of The Legacy at Jordan Park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday. The 60-unit midrise building completes a $93 million redevelopment project.

However, several speakers said the facility was more than brick and mortar. Meiko Seymour, a St. Petersburg Housing Authority (SPHA) commissioner, said it was built from “hope and community.”

From left: City Council Chair Brandi Gabbard; Brian Evjen, president of Norstar; County Commissioner Renee Flowers; St. Petersburg Housing Authority (SPHA) Board Chair James Dates; Michael Lundy, CEO of SPHA; Mayor Ken Welch; Rev. Basha Jordan; SPHA Commissioner Terri Lipsey Scott, executive director of the Woodson African American Museum of Florida.

County Commissioner Renee Flowers grew up in the once-dilapidated cluster of buildings bordering the 22nd Street South (the Deuces) corridor. She said its redevelopment would help change the conversation surrounding subsidized housing.

“It is not a place for poor people,” said Flowers, her voice rising. “It is not a place for individuals that some may consider undesirable. It is a place of community. It is a place of safety.

“It is a place where individuals can pull themselves up – not just by their bootstraps – but by all of the resources that we have.”

Jordan Park’s various buildings opened between 1939 and 1941, during the height of segregation. Michael Lundy, CEO of SPHA, noted that the state’s oldest public housing development provided 446 apartments that housed nearly 2,000 people.

The community eventually succumbed to years of neglect and blight. SPHA commissioner Terri Lipsey Scott became emotional as she described previous living conditions.

Scott is also the executive director of the neighboring Woodson African American Museum of Florida. It operates from Jordan Park’s former community center.

While Scott was a longtime, vocal advocate for revitalizing the community, she was also one of many stakeholders who fought to preserve the historic buildings. Construction forced 200 households to relocate; the SPHA provided moving assistance and housing vouchers.

“The important thing is we got through this together,” Lundy said. “Thanks to our residents for your patience as you endured the discomfort, and sometimes uncertainty, of relocation.”

Mayor Ken Welch greets two of The Legacy at Jordan Park’s first residents.

An expansive public-private partnership renovated 206 units in Jordan Park. Officials demolished the community’s senior living village to make way for The Legacy.

Former and new residents will fully occupy both aspects in the coming weeks. Lundy noted that The Legacy features granite countertops, in-home washers and dryers, a pickleball court and several other amenities typically found in market-rate apartments.

Each unit includes an electrical outlet connected to a backup generator, to aid residents during power outages. “This one, single enhancement will immensely improve the quality of life for our elderly community,” Lundy said.

Brian Evjen, president of Norstar Development, explained that challenges persisted long after local leaders established a vision for a new Jordan Park. The SPHA selected his firm in 2017, and they didn’t break ground until 2022.

“We worked through financing several times,” Evjen said. “The design, several times. There was some controversy, but no one left.”

City officials provided $2 million from the South St. Pete Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) budget. The Florida Housing Finance Corporation and RBC Community Investments offered low-income housing tax credits.

The Pinellas County Housing Finance Authority and the Federal Home Loan Banks Affordable Housing Program also helped fund the project. Evjen said local women and minority-owned businesses completed 22% of the redevelopment’s subcontracting work.

City Council Chair Brandi Gabbard said it takes a committed team of public and private partners to provide much-needed affordable housing. She also stressed the importance of having a safe and stable place to call home when “life seems uncertain, and the world seems out of control.”

“Here today, we honor not only the past, but we look to the future and the opportunities that this place will hold for generations to come,” Gabbard added. “I just want to say to the residents, welcome home.”

Jordan Park, the city and state’s oldest public housing community, opened between 1939 and 1941

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    Charlie Guy

    October 31, 2023at6:47 am

    This was certainly a very joyous day and a very important reminder just how our City is again demonstrating an active commitment to bring new life and grow THE Deuces Live neighborhood community one safe & healthy STRONG FAMILY at a time!!
    Charlie Guy, President
    Sunshine Greenway, Corp

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