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CASA buying land in Lealman for new shelter

LEALMAN — Land once slated to become an apartment complex is now destined to be a haven for victims of domestic abuse.

CASA has agreed to buy about 5 acres in the Lealman area for $900,000 as a site for a 100-bed shelter. The closing is expected this fall.

At 45,000 to 50,000 square feet, the new shelter will triple the size of CASA's existing shelter. It will be built with the help of a $2.5 million grant.

The land, in the eastern portion of Lealman, is the second that CASA considered buying in the area. The first deal fell through when an inspection revealed the site to be contaminated, said CASA executive director Linda Osmundson. Lealman is located generally between St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park. It is divided into east and west by Kenneth City.

CASA, for Community Action Stops Abuse, was founded in 1977. The organization provides refuge, crisis intervention, advocacy, professional training and community outreach to victims of domestic violence. Its goal is a community without violence so home is a safe place. Details about the Lealman acreage have been withheld for the security of victims who may eventually shelter there.

This acreage, Osmundson said, has several strong points including infrastructure — sewer lines, drainage and a fire hydrant — already in the ground. If those can be used, she said, it would save a lot of money in the construction. Another advantage is that it is in a nonevacuation zone, relieving CASA of having to relocate families in the event of a hurricane.

Records from the Pinellas County Property Appraiser show the land was purchased in 2007 for $2 million. The buyer proposed building 89 or 90 townhomes on the land, more than county zoning allowed. But the county relaxed the rules because the buyer promised that at least 18 of them would be sold to poorer families.

The plans fell through and, a couple of years later, the developer proposed instead a 96-unit apartment complex, an estimated $14.2 million project. The county agreed, but upped the number of affordable units from 18 to 20.

Those plans also fell flat and, in 2012, the bank took over ownership of the land, which has an appraised value of about $789,480.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

CASA buying land in Lealman for new shelter 10/15/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 2:19pm]

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