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Jordan Park project to bring new apartments, but residents must adjust in the meantime

By Waveney Ann Moore
Frances and Charles Cohens, both 74, pictured in the living room of their new apartment in the Old Southeast Apartments, 2606 Fourth St. S, in St. Petersburg. The couple, married for 52 years, had to relocate from Jordan Park during a $20 million improvement project by the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. They have the option to move back, but have decided to stay in their new home. [DIRK SHADD | Times]

ST. PETERSBURG ó Residents in Jordan Parkís Historic Village have begun to move as the St. Petersburg Housing Authority prepares to demolish that section of the 237-unit public housing complex near 22nd Street and Ninth Avenue S.

Charles and Frances Cohens were among those who learned that they would have to move from the one-story, craftsman-style buildings that date to the original construction of Jordan Park in 1937.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

The housing authority, which bought back the troubled complex in March, plans about $20 million in improvements that will include razing the Historic Village and putting a new three-story apartment building for seniors in its place.

The agency has given residents the option to return when the new apartments are built, but the Cohens, both 74, donít plan to move from their new home off Fourth Street S and 20th Avenue.

"We decided that we are just going to continue living here," Frances Cohens said. "Itís just too much of a problem trying to move back. We really like it here. We have settled in."

The Cohens, who moved on Nov. 7, said they found the apartment on their own after driving through the neighborhood.

"They told us we had to be out by the 11th of December," Charles Cohens said, adding that he and his wife had begun to get anxious about finding another place to live.

Housing authority CEO Tony Love said no one is being rushed. He said the agency, which has been helping people in the 31 affected households find new homes, has suspended the relocation process until Jan 3. One of the reasons was to avoid disruption to residentsí lives during the holidays, Love said.

Residents are eligible for housing choice vouchers. The Housing Authority is also paying their moving expenses and providing assistance with security and utility deposits.

Ten households have moved so far. An additional nine have found places to live but are waiting for required inspections to finalize contracts. Others are still searching. Two apartments recently became vacant in another section of Jordan Park and are being offered to Historic Village residents, Love said.

Sharlene Gambrell-Davis, 63, is still looking. "I had driven to Port Richey, just checking it out, but itís too far from everything," she said.

Lucy Shorter, 79, moved north to Gandy Boulevard. "Itís okay, but itís just so far out from everybody," she said, referring to family and friends.

Shorter, a retired nursing technician, is looking forward to returning to Jordan Park and living in the new senior housing. "I hope they get going on it soon, so I can go back," she said.

Love said the new 60-unit apartment building will include amenities such as an activities room and a secure entry.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Rats and other woes infest St. Petersburg public housing complex (w/video)

Syliva Norris, 65, who is diabetic and has lupus and high blood pressure, will not be returning. She has settled into a one-bedroom condominium on 54th Avenue S.

"I love it," she said. "I feel safer than I did at Jordan Park. In Jordan Park, I didnít sleep well. I caught a guy sleeping under my window one time. I have slept better where I am now than I have slept in a long time."

Norris and the Cohens were among the residents who complained about unlivable conditions, including rats, mold and inoperable appliances, at the complex before the housing authority bought Jordan Park back in March. A subsequent engineering report revealed severe infrastructure problems at Historic Village and led to the decision to demolish the buildings.

Demolition could take place in the second quarter of 2018, with the new senior housing likely ready by late 2019.

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