By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for seniors.
For the 31 families in a section of the complex known as the Historic Village, the plans will bring major change. The one-story, craftsman-style buildings in which they live are to be demolished to make way for the new housing. Residents have already received vouchers to move, but some hope to return when the new senior apartments are built.
"I love it here, but I know we have to make progress. ... I’m coming back," said Sharlene Gambrell-Davis, 63, who has lived in her one-bedroom Historic Village apartment for a little more than two and a half years.
Housing Authority CEO Tony Love said that in addition to demolishing the 31 units, the agency will renovate the remaining 206 units in the Jordan Park community near 22nd Street and Ninth Avenue S.
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 spent about $750,000 on new air conditioning and heating units and other work, including landscaping.
But an engineering report revealed serious infrastructure problems at Historic Village, Love said. The units date back to the original construction of Jordan Park in 1937 and were found to be infested with termites, he said. Love added that when the Jordan Park complex was demolished for redevelopment in 2000, Historic Village was saved, its units renovated and new front porches built.
"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, in the city’s historic African-American district, was named for black pioneer businessman Elder Jordan Sr. It’s where Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett and Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers grew up.
Love said the 60-unit apartment building planned to replace the Historic Village will include amenities such as an activities room and a secure entry.
"I hope I can come back," said Lucy Shorter, 79, a retired nursing technician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. "I like it here. I’ve got a nice, long porch."
Meanwhile, she’s trying to find something comparable. "I’ve called around several places. Everybody says they don’t have any one-bedrooms," she said.
Gambrell-Davis said she too has been busy looking for a new place, even driving as far as Port Richey. "I would rather stay on this side of the bridge," she said. "Tampa is too congested."
Love said the Housing Authority has hired "relocation specialists" to find new homes. 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, he said. The Housing Authority will also offer residents 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 the stackable washers and dryers in the Historic Village units 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."
Charles Cohens, 74, and his wife, Frances, 73, who had been plagued by rats and an inoperable dishwasher under the previous Jordan Park ownership, are excited about returning to new housing.
"They gave us the offer to come back. We’re very pleased with that," Frances Cohens said. "Because when we come back, everything will be brand new."
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.