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Unique affordable housing development breaks ground

Mark Parker

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Mayor Ken Welch noted that the Bayou Court Apartments project initially featured market-rate units. Photos by Mark Parker.

The blue-tarped fencing surrounding an excavation site in Lakewood Elementary School’s shadow represents hope for some teachers and parents who will watch the development gradually take shape.

Local leaders gathered Tuesday morning in South St. Petersburg to celebrate construction commencing on the Bayou Court Apartments. The affordable and workforce housing development will prioritize applications from school district and municipal employees.

That unique aspect stems from another successful public-private partnership formed to mitigate soaring housing costs. However, Mayor Ken Welch noted that “this story could have been very different.”

“This could have all been very expensive, market-rate housing,” Welch said. “In fact, it was headed in that direction. But through vision, through leadership, through intentionality and through partnerships, we have been blessed with a much more equitable outcome.”

The affordable and workforce housing project sits across the street from Lakewood Elementary School.

Washington D.C.-based Gravel Road Partners (GRP) is building 60 new homes at 4201 6th St. S., with 12 reserved for those making less than 50% of the area median income (AMI). That equates to $39,150 annually for a family of three.

Another nine are for those earning up to 80% of the AMI, and GRP capped 15 at 100%. Bayou Court will also feature 24 workforce units for those at or below 120%, or $93,960 for a three-person household.

“It’s not always about making the maximum profit available,” Welch said. “Your dedication to creating real solutions that prioritize affordability and accessibility is commendable.”

The project’s proximity to Lakewood Elementary symbolizes its focus. Councilmember Gina Driscoll said those conversations began about two years ago.

Driscoll said GRP’s leadership sought her feedback when exploring development opportunities in her district – which encompasses downtown and parts of South St. Pete. She expressed the need to “not leave anyone behind” amid the city’s construction boom.

“The next thing I know, they bought this property,” Driscoll explained. “You had me at that.”

Driscoll then told the developers that many students at the school next door are homeless, housing insecure or live in foster care. “And how the principal has said, ‘I don’t need another pencil – we have funding for that. We need socks. We need food.'” Driscoll added.

She said Michael Burke, a founding partner with GRP, soon informed her that the firm was forming a partnership with Lakewood to help ensure students are “taken care of, along with an option for these teachers to call this their home one day.”

“You won my heart with that,” Driscoll said. “The ways you are impacting this city go far beyond the apartments.”

From left: Pinellas County Commissioner Renee Flowers, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Deborah Figgs-Sanders, Mayor Ken Welch and City Councilmember Gina Driscoll.

Tyler Herbert, founding partner with GRP, noted that the firm has worked on the project for over a year. He credited collaboration and creativity in bringing the project to fruition.

The St. Petersburg City Council unanimously approved allocating $2.74 million to fund construction in November 2023. Pinellas County Commissioners dedicated $3 million.

The developers received an $8.6 million construction loan and will contribute $2.9 million to the $17.28 million project. All 60 homes will feature two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Herbert credited city housing officials for changing the project’s initial trajectory from a “full, market-rate development.” He also expressed pride in prioritizing public school and municipal employees.

Herbert called Lakewood Elementary a “special” school with an “incredible” story that “pulls at your heart in many different ways. If this project can serve as a blueprint for other developers … then we’ve done our job,” he said.

St. Petersburg-based Place Architecture is designing the project. GRP tapped Park & Eleazer, headquartered in Clearwater, as its general contractor.

The three-story, garden-style apartment buildings come with a minimum 30-year affordability mandate. GRP expects to open the Bayou Court Apartments next spring.

City Council Chair Deborah Figgs-Sanders called the project “quite the accomplishment” for the city and its partners. “Creating affordable housing is not an immediate process,” she added. “But it is intentional.”

A rendering of the completed development at 4201 6th St. S. Image provided.

 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    April 27, 2024at8:40 pm

    Affordable Housing usually are for folk making approximately $39,000 and up annually. There does not seem to be any consideration given to those making $24,000 to $39,000 annually. These are folk that make $12.00 an hour and up. Affordable does not mean criminals and vagabonds, they are usually Teachers, Nurses, Policemen/Women and other professionals that make $40,000 annually and Up!!!!!
    Citizens need to educate themselves about what these terms mean,please and get rid of the negative attitudes.

  2. Avatar

    Renee

    April 25, 2024at11:02 am

    Anytime “affordable housing” is mentioned in St.Pete it’s for sure going to be a breeding ground for criminal activity. I’m a Florida (Pinellas County) native and it’s just how it is because anytime any effort has been made to clean it up, for some reason it just gets worse.

  3. Avatar

    Danny E White

    April 24, 2024at5:34 pm

    Sheryl Young, you might get an answer here:

    https://www.gravelrd.com/contact

  4. Avatar

    Sheryl Young

    April 24, 2024at12:06 pm

    How and when can you apply. I am a On-Site Substitute Teacher and I’m interested in applying.

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