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Partnership pushes affordable housing project forward

Mark Parker



The final rendering for the Seminole Square Apartments. County officials announced Tuesday that construction crews recently broke ground on the development. Photo provided.

Construction crews recently broke ground on 96 affordable housing units, giving local government officials reason to celebrate after soaring costs put the project in limbo.

Construction on the Seminole Square Apartments finally commenced thanks to an extensive public-private partnership. A combination of federal, state and local funding made the development at 2005 Seminole Boulevard in Largo possible.

The St. Petersburg Housing Authority and Pinellas County Housing Finance Authority joined county and city leadership to support the project. Archway Partners, an Orlando-based affordable and workforce housing developer, is building 96 one and two-bedroom apartments for households earning between 30-80% of the area median income (AMI).

County Commissioner Charlie Justice told the Catalyst that it’s nice to see projects come to fruition when so many start and stop for various reasons. He relayed that the pauses and cancellations – increasingly due to cost increases – are frustrating for local officials trying to address the ongoing housing crisis.

“Having a roof over the heads of families is important,” said Justice. “And the location is really important because it’s on a main access road for transportation, shopping, groceries – all those kinds of things. So, it’s a good project that we’re looking forward to actually cutting the ribbon on.”

Getting to this point was no easy task for stakeholders, who had to keep pace with soaring construction costs and interest rates. Subsidization began in February, with commissioners dedicating $4 million from the Penny for Pinellas housing fund to acquire 4.97 acres of vacant land adjacent to the Town and Country Mobile Home Park.

In July, commissioners approved allocating $17.8 million in Pinellas Housing Finance Authority bonds to the project – then estimated to cost $27 million. Despite some trepidation, county officials contributed another $1.56 million in September to offset price hikes.

City documents stated that cost projections for Seminole Square jumped 11.6% in about seven months to $30.76 million.

At the time, Justice said that continuously absorbing significant price increases would eventually come at the peril of future developments. The City of Largo increased its funding by $840,000, for a total commitment of $1.45 million. Penny for Pinellas provided $5.56 million.

“The groundbreaking of Seminole Square Apartments is an important step in expanding housing access to residents earning below the area median income,” said Largo mayor Woody Brown in a statement. “I want to thank all the private and public partners who have collaborated and contributed to bring us to this milestone moment …”

Carol Stricklin, director of housing and community development for Pinellas County, explained that the St. Pete Housing Authority pledged vouchers for the Seminole Square Apartments. In addition, she noted the developer also restructured its financing and developer fees.

Rounding out the partnership is Bank OZK. The Arkansas-based financial institution bought bonds from the Housing Finance Authority to provide a construction loan.

Speaking at a Dec. 7 housing discussion, Barclay Harless, St. Petersburg market leader for Bank OZK, noted the recent success of a public-private partnership to create townhomes in South St. Pete. He believes local governments should expand those initiatives.

Stricklin said it took all the involved parties “putting a little bit more into the deal” to see construction crews break ground on Seminole Square.

“I think it really demonstrates that it takes a partnership,” she added. “It’s very significant that they’re still able to follow through on this commitment to make this project work.”

Despite the cost increases, Stricklin said the development is “still a very solid deal” and underscores the need to create more affordable housing. She noted that some units are for very low-income residents, and a county release states that the 30-80% AMI threshold represents a $17,300 to $46,000 annual income for one person.

Like Justice, Stricklin relayed that the project’s close proximity to employment, shopping and transportation opportunities makes it ideal for workforce housing. County officials expect the 96 apartments to become available in early 2024.

“We’re grateful for our partnership with Pinellas County, the City of Largo and the St. Petersburg Housing Authority,” said Dave Heaslip, development partner at Archway Partners, in a statement. “And we’re thankful for their willingness to step up in a big way. Without their support, this development wouldn’t have been possible.”

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  1. Avatar

    Carl Hebinck

    December 29, 2022at10:38 am

    I am happy to see some progress on building affordable housing in Pinellas Co. At 30,760,000 That’s $32,416 average cost per apartment. Well, it’s good that 96 more “affordable” units will be made available. On the high end people making $22.55 an hour doesn’t sould like low-income people. On the low end $8.48 an hour wages certainly is low-income. The article doesn’t say what the proportion will be.

    I have been appealing [since September 2nd] at the recommendation of Mayor Welch, to the St. Pete authorities in charge of affordable housing to hear my proposal to build ADU housing in So. St. Pete. I guarantee affordable housing can be built there for half the cost of convention construction, in half the time and with half the GHG’s pollution on our planet. This would be done by a nonprofit in a partnership with the City. We would have the capability of producing 10 small ADU houses a day in a local Workshop. And under normal circumstances within 3 years time we could be putting up 250 affordable units per year. The total project installation cost would be the cost of just one 800 sq. ft. house at current St. Pete new construction costs of $304 per sq. ft.
    The houses would be built with advanced technology Steel Structural Insulated Panels. The houses would be built with teams of graduating students from local Tech schools under the leadership of Veterans.
    To date, after 10’s of communications with the City I have yet to be invited to the table to layout the plan.
    Carl Hebinck, Veteran, Volunteer at Celebrate Outreach, non profit in St. Pete.

  2. Avatar


    December 29, 2022at7:36 pm

    4.5 miles south of this complex is Seminole Square Retirement Center. The confusion this is going to cause is unlimited. Why did this happen?

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