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To help Jordan Park’s seniors, 31 families must find new homes

By Waveney Ann Moore
Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI | Tampa Bay Times]

ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex earlier this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and build a new three-story building for seniors.

But that means 31 families will have to find new housing.

Their section of the complex, one-story Craftsman-style buildings in what is known as the Historic Village, will be demolished to make way for the new structure.

The affected families have already been issued vouchers to move.

Plans also are being made to renovate the remaining 206 units at the complex near 22nd Street and Ninth Avenue S in the city’s historic African-American district, said Housing Authority CEO Tony Love.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Rats and other woes infest St. Petersburg public housing complex July 2, 2016)

The Housing Authority’s announcement comes seven months after it closed on the 24-acre property, buying it back from Jordan Park Development Partners — a partnership of the Richman Group of Florida and Landex of Jacksonville.

Under the previous owners, residents had complained about rats, mold, inoperable appliances, neglected landscaping and other problems. The Housing Authority promised immediate improvement and has spent about $750,000 on new air conditioning and heating units and other work such as improved landscaping.

But an engineering report revealed problems at the Historic Village, Love said. Those units date back to the original construction of Jordan Park in 1937 and were found to be infested with termites, he said. When the housing complex was demolished for redevelopment in 2000, the Historic Village units were renovated and new front porches added, Love said.

"It’s not feasible for the Housing Authority to put our monies there," he said. "We would not have enough money for upkeep in future years and that would be putting good money after bad."

Jordan Park, named for black pioneer businessman Elder Jordan Sr., has played an important role in St. Petersburg’s African-American history. Actor Angela Bassett is among the well-known residents who once lived in the public housing.

The 60-unit building that will replace the Historic Village will include amenities such as an activities room and a secure entry. Meanwhile, residents in the units expected to be demolished early next year are being helped to find new homes by "relocation specialists" hired by the Housing Authority.

The agency also will hire a moving company to help families move, but those who want to move themselves will get a $750 to $900 allowance to do so. The Housing Authority will offer other assistance in the form of security and utility deposits.

"We want to make them whole," Love said. "We will even transfer their cable."

Residents will also get a "small inconvenience fee" of about $100 to help as they settle in, Love said. Those whose new homes have hook-ups for washers and dryers will be allowed to take those appliances with them.

"The washers and dryers are already 10 to 15 years old," Love said. "They are of no value. We would only scrap them."

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.