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Council gives first okay for low-income senior housing

City Council members moved one step closer last week to finalizing a partnership with a local group to build housing for low-income seniors.

The council approved a preliminary site plan for an 88-unit, two-tower high-rise that would be built on city-owned land. The 3.46 acres is near the Pinellas Park Senior Center, 7625 59th St. N.

It would be the second such development in the city. The first is St. Giles Manor, at 5041 82nd Ave. N, next to St. Giles Episcopal Church.

The church does not run St. Giles Manor, but many of its members are on the board, as is the church pastor.

The council's decision was unpopular with some neighbors of the proposed building. Some of them picketed the meeting, objecting on many grounds, including the type of facility, its appearance and size.

Those who oppose the plan will have two other chances to dissuade officials from approving the project, which will be known as St. Giles II. Those opportunities for public comment will likely come up in May, when a development agreement will go before Pinellas Park's Planning and Zoning Commission and then the City Council. The development agreement will give the city control over such things as the appearance of the building.

"I've got the whole thing conditional on a development agreement," said Dean Neal, the city's zoning division director. That means St. Giles II will not be built unless the council and the church sign off on the agreement. "I've got the development agreement loaded with protections for the city to the point where they're paranoid."

If the agreement is signed, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development must also approve it. HUD is providing the money to St. Giles for the structure.

The city would lease the land to St. Giles, which would build

the facility and run it. When the lease is up, the city would own the building.

Neal noted that neighbors who oppose the project have labeled it a "done deal" and a surprise, but neither accusation is true, Neal said.

The city has had plans since the mid to late 1980s to encourage mixed uses and higher-density housing in the redevelopment area, which spans three blocks on either side of Park Boulevard and 49th Street N.

The goal was not only to redevelop a "slum and blighted" area, but to encourage more people to move to Pinellas Park's "downtown" and shop at local stores.

But progress on that goal has been slow. The major changes in the area have been along Park, where the moribund Pinellas Square Mall has been transformed into the bustling Shoppes at Park Place and where other businesses have opened or redone their facades. Most recently, the city demolished the Chamber of Commerce building and built Park Station, designed to look like what officials wish the city's original train station had looked like.

Park Station, which houses the chamber, the Pinellas Park Art and Historical societies, and city offices, is just down the street from the proposed site of St. Giles II. City officials want St. Giles II to take its design cues from Park Station.

The Senior Center and shuffleboard courts that are in the same block as St. Giles II would not be changed, but the parking would be reconfigured. The senior citizens annex would be razed and a new one would be located in St. Giles II and would be open to the public.

Council gives first okay for low-income senior housing 03/29/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 1, 2008 1:33pm]
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