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Developer backs out of deal to buy St. Petersburg public housing complex

Demolition is now one possibility for the Graham Park apartments.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Demolition is now one possibility for the Graham Park apartments.

ST. PETERSBURG — The city housing authority's sale of the Graham-Rogall apartments to a developer is officially dead.

Now the St. Petersburg Housing Authority again has to decide how to redevelop the 486-unit complex near Tropicana Field. The board will meet Thursday to take the first steps.

"We want to try to continue to get the maximum use out of that site," executive director Darrell Irions said.

KEGB of Tampa, the developer that wanted to turn the public housing complex into condominiums, backed out of the $12.2 million deal last week and forfeited the $200,000 in escrow to the housing authority.

The deal wasn't expected to be final until all residents were relocated. But the developer began to question whether the property was still worth the purchase price. KEGB also faced tighter credit markets, snagging the deal this spring.

The authority has been relocating residents since the deal was struck in 2008, despite some criticism over the loss of low-income housing. To date, Graham Park has nine families in residence; Rogall has 100 families. About 25 families are expected to move in the next few weeks.

Housing officials say they will now look to federal stimulus money to demolish the Graham Park property — deemed by Irions as "raggedy" — and improve the Rogall section. It's also possible the agency will demolish both structures and rebuild affordable rental housing, Irions said.

But the agency also may consider other purchase offers.

A new appraisal set the complex's value at $8.8 million, Irions said.

One unexpected option: the Pinellas County Housing Authority, despite a nasty breakup with the city agency in April, may be interested. Irions, who was the director of both authorities, resigned from the county agency in April over fights with the board over a joint headquarters project. That project was abandoned.

County housing authority board member Angela Rouson spurred the agency to have its new executive director, Debbie Johnson, approach the city agency about buying Graham-Rogall.

The county is expected to explore using reserve funds or federal money if the city agency is receptive.

"With all the community's outcry wanting to keep it low-income public housing, what better idea than the county authority to come in and do that?" said Rouson, who is running for St. Petersburg City Council.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Developer backs out of deal to buy St. Petersburg public housing complex 06/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 3:18pm]
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