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St. Pete to transform lumber yard into affordable housing

Mark Parker



In April 2022, St. Petersburg's City Council approved a proposal to transform a lumber yard into affordable housing under HB1339. It has yet to break ground. Rendering: HP Capital Group.

In September 2021, the City of St. Petersburg became the first municipality in Florida to take advantage of a new House Bill that allows for a process to create affordable housing in otherwise prohibited zoning districts.

Utilizing that new process, an old lumber yard at 3300 Fairfield Ave. S. will soon be transformed into 264 affordable apartments.

On Thursday, the St. Petersburg City Council unanimously approved turning an industrial-zoned, seven-acre location into an affordable housing complex. Currently occupied by Tibbetts Lumber, the Pinellas Trail borders the site to its south and Fairfield Avenue to its north. The proposed development also sits between 34th Street South to the east and 31st Street to the west.

“There’s no other building like this located in St. Peterburg that I’m aware of,” said Rob Gerdes, city administrator. “With this number of units – all workforce and affordable units, no market-rate units – with no tax credits involved.

“This is a very unique application.”

In 2020, the State Legislature approved House Bill 1339, which states in part: Notwithstanding any other law or local ordinance or regulation to the contrary, the governing body of a municipality may approve the development of housing that is affordable … on any parcel zoned for residential, commercial or industrial use.

In October 2021, the city council formally approved an amendment to the city code, creating a process for a developer to apply for an affordable housing development not typically permitted in neighborhood suburban, neighborhood traditional, industrial suburban and industrial traditional zoning districts. The current zoning of the proposed Fairfield Apartment complex is industrial traditional.

“The purpose of this (the bill and subsequent amendment to city code) was to help overcome impediments to the development of more affordable housing,” said Gerdes. “And one of those impediments is available land for construction.”

Gerdes noted that city council’s approval is only relevant to the current proposal. If the development falls through, or if the developer makes significant changes to the site plan, the application process begins anew.

Gerdes also explained strict location, density, affordability and property size criteria. City code prohibits variances for the project criteria, including a minimum of five acres and 60 units; a location within two miles of a public or vocational school, one mile of a grocery store and the Pinellas Trail or a city park and a quarter-mile of a PSTA bus line; and a maximum rent or sale price at 120% or below the area median income (AMI), with a 30-year minimum affordability period.

Gerdes said the application checks all the boxes.

The proposed site is bordered by the Pinellas Trail to the south and Fairfield Avenue South to its north. Gibbs High School, grocery stores and a PSTA bus stop are all nearby. Screengrab.

The application calls for 53 units for residents making 50% or less of the AMI, which is currently $33,250 for a household of three. Another 67 units are for those making up to 80% of the AMI, and the remaining 144 units are available to those at or below 120% of the AMI, or $79,800 for a three-person household.

“If you just looked at the units at 80% and 50% AMI, that’s 120 units,” added Gerdes. “That’s larger than any 9% tax credit development, numbers-wise, that I’m aware of in the City of St. Petersburg.

“So, if you don’t even look at the units at 120% AMI, you just look at the other units – it’s very significant for St. Petersburg.”

Attorney Brian Aungst spoke on behalf of the applicant and developer, HP Capital Group. He called it a historic day in the Sunshine City as the Fairfield Avenue project is the first in the state to take advantage of the new process. He said the proposal would serve as a model for other municipalities throughout the state.

Councilmember Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, whose district encompasses the site, said she recently received a call stating that 70 families with children in the area were currently sleeping in their cars.

“To hear that we’re going to have 254 units of affordable housing that are not just strictly at 120% AMI – is exciting to me,” she said. “I just want you guys (HP Capital Group) to know that I appreciate it.”

Councilmember Richie Floyd said he likes to preserve industrial land because it provides jobs that help people afford housing expenses but called the proposal “impressive.” He asked about the affordability period, and Gerdes explained that in addition to the 30-year stipulation in the proposal, the developer is working with Pinellas County to secure a land trust that would increase the affordability term to 99 years.

Councilmember Ed Montanari credited city staff for taking a difficult process and quickly utilizing it to combat the affordable housing crisis.

“This sort of stuff isn’t easy,” he said. “The level of detail and the speed at which it got done – you know, government doesn’t work very fast.”

Both Montanari and Aungst acknowledged Councilmember Brandi Gabbard, who was absent, for her work to see the process and proposal come to fruition.

“The fact that this is historic – and that the City of St. Petersburg is the first to use this tool – says something about governance in our city,” said Montanari.

The city council unanimously approved HP Capital Group’s proposal for the Fairfield Avenue affordable housing project. Tibbetts Lumber plans to relocate to Largo, and developers expect to break ground at the site in the coming months.



  1. Avatar


    April 22, 2022at9:49 pm

    The rent & cost of homes are outrageous. Affordable housing does not need a bunch of fancy amenities. We just need a place to call home, gather, sleep and share a safe environment. Let the wealthy waste their money on marble counter tops, I just want an affordable place to live. I’m on disability. I get about $1000.00 a month. This is impossible to have a life living under a bridge.

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    April 20, 2022at3:36 pm

    Still does not address Housing CRISIS of St. PETERSBURG ,Born Raised Disabled on SSI or Elderly Survivors on SSI At 64,65. SOC Sec Widowers on Soc Sec with supplemental due to not having paid in enough last 5 years to qualify for same amt paid in earlier in life. This better Quit Retire when Making top wages than finish working Retirement 40 Quarters so qualify for barely liveable or NOT Disability ,POTUS Kennedy, Regular Army Volunteer Veterans surviving Widow,65, Retirement Benefits. $875. Mo. Or SSI $65 $776.

    Turn Project into Like what I advocated Self sustaining block lower floor Commercial Essential Home food,goods, daycare… essential shared business office…
    Like I previous proposed. Thus Commercial ind. To current level zoning with Residential above = Increase Job employment Essential foods goods access without sprawl. Commercial tax sales revenues bring continued revenue to area and Prevents urban sprawl, safer accessibility, neighborhood safety and crime prevention in high crime area. with Residential Apts above thus area has high level flooded streets rain storm flood streets.and Rails to Trails Areas need to stay included as Mass Transit, As RR Still has 100 yr lease on Lands and St. Petersburg has removed illegally Rail Road Rails etc.. which is actually the high speed Transit in area. In desire for police dept to Confiscate area surrounding St. Petersburg City Dept. And Other areas.

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    April 20, 2022at5:52 am

    Why not add affordable housing north of central? I’m new to St Pete’s and I can definitely see a racial dividing line. What is the problem? After Indigenous People, African Americans escaping slavery settled the land. What happened? What about the African American neighborhood that was destroyed to create Tropicana Field? Was there ever any compensation? Something is not right here.

  4. Avatar

    Richard Bruce

    April 19, 2022at12:26 pm

    Future disaster. Forced financial segregation never works.

  5. Avatar

    Steven Frost

    April 19, 2022at8:45 am

    Provide for energy independence using solar and other renewables.

  6. Avatar

    Kathy Vesely

    April 18, 2022at10:41 pm

    An awesome, much needed project for our great city of St Petersburg! Kudos to Mayor Welch, city council members & staff, for their diligence & hard work to make this a reality! Well done!

  7. Avatar

    Julius L Gordon

    April 18, 2022at9:15 pm

    Me and my girlfriend pay 850 a month for a 1 bedroom apt, I collect ssa and work 1 job, she collects ssi and doesn’t work and I don’t think we could still afford to live in the apts you are building

  8. Avatar

    Carl Lavender

    April 18, 2022at7:33 pm

    Outstanding Leadership by Mayor Welch! The spark Childs Park needed.

  9. Avatar

    darrin jones

    April 18, 2022at5:12 pm

    This is badly needed! Make plenty of greenery/park area. Do not use tarmat parking lot. Use open pavers/grass to allow water to absorb back in the ground. plant plenty of live oaks for tree canopy. This will cut on air-conditioning costs. Make the unit entrances far apart from each other to give residents space/privacy

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