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New affordable housing project prioritizes school, city workers

Mark Parker

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The City of St. Petersburg dedicated $2.74 million to the Bayou Court Apartments project in November 2023. A proposed policy would increase tenant protections at all subsidized developments. Rendering provided.

A new South St. Petersburg housing development will provide 60 affordable and workforce units – with 12 reserved for those making just 50% of the area median income (AMI).

The Bayou Court Apartments site borders Lakewood Elementary School to its north and the long-awaited Coquina Key Plaza redevelopment to its west. Tyler Herbert, a founding partner with Gravel Road Partners (GRP), said his firm would prioritize applications from school district and municipal employees.

The St. Petersburg City Council unanimously approved allocating $2.74 million inter-fund to support construction, with John Muhammad absent, at its Nov. 30 meeting. Councilmember Gina Driscoll said she told the development group last year that many Lakewood Elementary students are homeless, housing insecure or live in foster care.

“And they (GRP) reached out to them, and they’re kind of adopting this school, which I think is wonderful,” Driscoll said. “I love that there’s a special priority given to school employees and city employees – we all know how important that is.”

Lakewood Elementary students eat lunch outside. It is one of seven schools listed in a “Transformation Zone.” Photo by Mark Parker.

The total project cost estimate is $17.28 million, or $287,959 per unit. Mark Van Lue, housing development manager, said that is below the recent $343,000 average.

The city’s subsidy equates to $45,667 per unit. The developer received an $8.6 million construction loan from Commercial Bank and $3 million from Pinellas County Government and will contribute $2.9 million to the project.

City officials expect construction to commence in early 2024. Once complete, the Bayou Courts Apartments at 4201 6th Street South will feature 60 two-bedroom, two-bathroom units encompassing about 1,050 square feet.

Herbert said his Washington D.C.-based company has around 1,200 units in its pipeline, “and all we do is public-private partnerships.” He said the South St. Pete project has undergone several changes and believes stakeholders have “landed in a really good place.”

Herbert said the firm worked with city administrators on an efficient design that reduces costs while appealing to the largest pool of potential renters. He also said GRP is 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 added. “Debt and equity are already secured, and we are ready to roll.”

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

The three-story, garden-style apartment buildings will offer 12 units for households earning below 50% of the AMI, currently $39,150 for a family of three. Another nine are at 80% of the AMI, with 15 at 100% and 24 workforce units for those making 120% of the AMI, or $93,960 for a three-person household.

Van Lue noted that the project’s initial density allowance was 35 apartments. The city’s workforce housing density bonus allowed an additional 14, while the state’s reclaimed water bonus permitted another 12 units.

“The developer has put together a strong local team consisting of Place Architecture, Park & Eleazor Construction, Osborn Civil Engineering, WGI Structural Engineering and Carteret Property Management,” Van Lue said. “All these are well-known and respected entities in our community.”

Driscoll called the property unique due to its unusual shape. She credited GRP for transforming the land into housing and noted its proximity to Coquina Key Plaza.

Real estate firm Stoneweg plans to build a seven-story apartment building and an adjacent retail shopping center anchored by a local grocer at the long-neglected site. The plaza at 4350 6th St. S. encompasses 110,500 square feet.

“So, we’ve got some great stuff cooking there,” Driscoll added. “And I can’t wait to see what happens next.”

Amy Foster, neighborhood affairs administrator, said the Bayou Court Apartments project initially featured market-rate units. She credited year-long conversations between city officials and the developers for bringing affordable homes to an underserved area.

The project comes with a minimum 30-year affordability mandate. Herbert expects the Bayou Court Apartments to open in early 2025.

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    December 5, 2023at7:39 pm

    2021 Median income was $64,375, I could not get 2022 figures. 30% is $19,312, $60% is 38,625, $ 80% is $51,500. Minimum wage is $12hr. $12 hrs at 40 hours is $24,960. Will “regular people” be able to afford to live there??? No one is looking out for retail workers, restaurant workers, the bread and butter of our community. ‘Regular People’ are leaving because they can no longer afford to live here. In 2019 a one bedroom apartment was $650, today they are between $1500 and $1800 a month.

  2. Avatar

    Pat Fling

    December 5, 2023at4:34 pm

    Only 21 units are really “affordable” as they are for people earning 80% AMI or less. The others are NOT affordable, even though the article calls them that. When public funds are used – $2.4 million from St Pete and $3 million from Pinellas county, they should all be affordable. Ask your self, “Affordable for who?”

  3. Avatar

    Theresa

    December 5, 2023at11:55 am

    St. Petersburg should be affordable for all residents throughout the City. Many seniors, who have lived their entire lives here in St. Petersburg shouldn’t have to become homeless due to a lack of income so that people in ANY neighborhood can feel elitist and better than anyone else! #HousingIsAHumanRight

  4. Avatar

    Mike

    December 4, 2023at6:42 pm

    Step right up! This is your opportunity to win the subsidized housing lottery funded by a neighborhood that definitely does not want subsidized housing next door. Brought to you by people that buy votes by distorting the housing market and then pull a shocked face when the housing market performs dysfunctionally. If you aren’t a ward of the nanny state yet, just wait! This could be your LUCKY DAY!

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