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Affordable apartments could replace troubled Largo mobile home park

LARGO — A new apartment complex with affordable housing may soon break ground on Clearwater-Largo Road.

The new complex at 1760 Clearwater-Largo Road would replace one of Largo's most troubled mobile home parks.

Local officials are ironing out details to help fund the project as the developer prepares for the closing on the properties, just south of Belleair Place apartments near Ponce de Leon Boulevard.

"We think this is really going to be a help for that corridor," said Matthew Anderson, Largo's housing manager. "It will be a shot in the arm with all of those new people supporting the businesses there."

The corridor, lined mostly with restaurants, shops and old mobile home parks, has seen little redevelopment in recent years.

"They have really been hit by the economic downturn," said Carol Stricklin, the city's community development director.

A few new shops are giving the location a chance, but several businesses have shut their doors. Once-popular restaurants — Jorge's Seafood Grille, the Skinny Rooster and Grillmarks — all closed last year.

Bayside Court would replace No Go Largo Village, a notorious Largo trailer park shuttered since October 2008. In 2006, city inspectors condemned 13 trailers and cited the park's previous owner for 150 code violations. Two years later, the park was closed by officials after the same owner failed to pay the water bill and left more than 30 tenants without running water.

The new complex will resemble the Key West style of Belleair Place. Those apartments were also built by Bayside Court's developer, the Richman Group of Florida, based in West Palm Beach.

Fifty-nine of the 144 units will be classified as affordable. The rest of the two- and three-bedroom units will be market rate. Amenities in the complex will include a 4,300-square-foot clubhouse with a fitness center, a community room, computer center, laundry facility and playground, Anderson said.

The city and the Pinellas County Housing Finance Authority have been finalizing agreements to help fund the project.

And the sale of the property may close by the end of the month, Anderson said. The land will be owned by a trust established by the Housing Finance Authority, said Bruce Bussey, urban development manager in the county's community development department.

The properties will be purchased with funds awarded by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which is designed to stabilize communities hard-hit by foreclosures and abandoned properties. Largo will distribute $850,000 and the Housing Finance Authority will provide $2.45 million of the funds.

When it comes to construction of the complex, Largo's Housing Trust Fund will provide a $400,000 loan, due in 40 years, and the Housing Finance Authority plans to issue $10.25 million in bonds.

Anderson says there's a need for affordable rental apartments, despite claims by some that declining property values have eliminated the need for workforce rentals.

"If you look at surveys, generally, market rents are way out of line for what lower income people can afford," Anderson said. "We definitely need subsidized rentals."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Affordable apartments could replace troubled Largo mobile home park 03/19/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 19, 2011 3:11pm]
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