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Partners break ground on Southside townhomes

Mark Parker



From left: Mike Sutton, President and CEO of Habitat; Councilmember Deborah Figgs-Sanders; Mayor Ken Welch; Council Chair Gina Driscoll; Bob Mayer, president of Exact; Alfredo Anthony, board chair of Habitat Immediate Past; and Ernie Dubose, CEO of DuCon Construction. City leaders hope to expand affordable homeownership initiatives, like the Shell Dash Townhomes (pictured).

Families priced out of renting in South St. Petersburg will soon have another affordable ownership opportunity at the Shell Dash Townhomes.

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties, in partnership with Exact Shell Dash LLC and the City of St. Petersburg, held a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for a 10-unit townhome development on the 16th Street Business Corridor. Every official who spoke at the event noted the project is the perfect example of creating a public-private partnership to address community needs.

The homes will border the Campbell Park neighborhood and sit just a few blocks south of the Tropicana Field/Historic Gas Plant District redevelopment site. After the ceremony, Mike Sutton, president of the local Habitat affiliate, told the Catalyst that the new homeowners will move in just before a wave of progress sweeps the area.

“It’s one of those things that we kind of joke about – if you could see the future,” explained Sutton. “Well, for the folks that move in here, they’re going to be part of a redevelopment of a corridor that’s really going to be part of the future of St. Petersburg.”

The 10 townhomes are for those making less than 80% of the area median and income, with prices capped at $219,000. Rendering: Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties.

Habitat will exclusively market the townhomes to people making less than 80% of the area median income (AMI) and willing to participate in the nonprofit’s ownership program. Potential buyers must complete 350-450 “sweat equity” hours and take 32 related classes.

The development encompasses 10 two-story, three-bedroom and three-bathroom units with a garage. The Habitat program provides 0% mortgage loans, and city subsidies allow a $219,000 price cap.

City Council Chair Gina Driscoll expressed relief that the partners finally broke ground on the project after several years of “ups and downs.” She thanked Shell Dash developer Bob Mayer for utilizing a vacant lot to increase density while ensuring the homes remained affordable.

“This is what it looks like when you have a public-private partnership that really works,” said Driscoll. “We’re creating the American dream, but it’s St. Pete’s reality today.”

Mayor Ken Welch relayed his long history in the area and said the development is an example of creating inclusive progress as the city experiences drastic growth and changes. He also noted the city contributed a land and construction subsidy worth over $1 million.

The money comes from South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) funding, and the city also donated the land to the developer. Welch said many more projects are on the horizon, and providing safe, affordable housing remains a top priority throughout local government.

Missouri-based Mayer acknowledged Driscoll’s support through “a lot of bad news.” He mentioned working with Preserve the ‘Burg to relocate the historic Shell Dash Cottage from the site in 2021, and although those plans fell through, he decided to keep the name to maintain the area’s history.

Developer Bob Mayer (right), president of Exact, with Mike Sutton, president of the local Habitat affiliate.

Mayer also came before the city council in March to request an additional $617,000 due to inflation and soaring construction costs. The increase more than doubled the original amount of city funding to $1.075 million.

At the time, Mayer said his team had “skin in this game,” and “to be real candid, this is probably not the type of project that I would normally do … ”

Like several other officials at the ceremony, he credited City Administrator Rob Gerdes for championing the development. Gerdes showed him the land and introduced him to Sutton, and Mayer said, “I couldn’t ask for a better partner than Mike.”

Challenges remain, Mayer explained, including addressing stormwater issues. However, he said the team will “keep the momentum going” and make the site “sacred ground.”

Sutton told attendees that it’s no secret the area is undergoing a housing crisis. He said Habitat is doing its part and will build 70 homes in the community this year.

He added that the 10 townhomes would annually contribute about $50,000 in local taxes, another distinct benefit of affordable ownership.

“We’re giving folks the opportunity to own their own home and build intergenerational wealth,” said Sutton. “Then in turn, they are contributing back to the community through the tax base.”

DuCon Construction, a state-certified Minority Business Enterprise, will serve as the lead contractor. Officials expect the Shell Dash Townhomes to open in Q3 of 2024.

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1 Comment

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    Shirley Hayes

    December 10, 2022at11:25 am

    Great Idea thank you Habitat.

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