Developer of affordable housing in Largo wants to build more apartments

Belleair Place Apartments is one of Largo’s biggest projects in the Clearwater-Largo Road redevelopment area with 180 apartments.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Belleair Place Apartments is one of Largo’s biggest projects in the Clearwater-Largo Road redevelopment area with 180 apartments.

The developer of Belleair Place Apartments affordable housing project on Clearwater-Largo Road wants to build up to 144 more affordable apartments on the corridor.

To do so, the West Palm Beach developer may buy properties south of the complex.

About four years ago, the Richman Group of Florida broke ground on Belleair Place, a 180-unit Key West-style complex on the corner of Ponce DeLeon Boulevard.

The city was enthusiastic about the first project, which has 126 affordable units, and is equally enthusiastic about the second, said Mayor Pat Gerard.

Largo City Commissioner Harriet Crozier called the apartment complex "beautiful," and said it adds a lot to the area.

In recent years, the corridor, dotted with old mobile home parks, has seen little other development. A couple of prospective developers say the economy and bureaucracy threw a wrench in their plans.

"The market took the wind out of us," said Philippe Beau, who planned to build townhomes just south of Belleair Place.

His partner, Daniel Grieco, said they approached the Richman Group about a year ago. They asked if the developer would be interested in buying property owned by Grieco's company, Grand Key Development LLC. It was, Grieco said.

But Grieco had to wait another year for his property to be added to the city's redevelopment district, which allows more homes per acre.

The Richman Group is also eyeing the property south of Grand Key, where the vacant No Go Largo Village mobile home park now sits, said Damon Kolb, development associate with the Richman Group.

Seventy percent of Belleair Place's units are classified as affordable. That's the percentage the city's development code now allows in the Clearwater-Largo Road district.

The Richman Group plans to build 72 to 144 more units, all classified as affordable. Because of those plans, city leaders are considering allowing a greater percentage of affordable homes in the district, but also requiring a development agreement with Largo to do so.

The Richman Group wants to build a high percentage of affordable homes because it is applying for affordable housing tax credits from Florida Housing Finance Corp., Kolb said.

"It is a competitive process because the state wants to award projects that provide as many affordable units as possible," Kolb said.

To qualify for affordable apartments, renters must make 60 percent of the median income or less. Belleair Place, which has a pool and a fitness center, offers two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Affordable units range from about $300 to $785, while market rate units go from about $875 to $1,100, apartment staff said.

Ninety-five percent of Belleair Place apartments are occupied, Kolb told city commissioners.

"This is the segment of the market," he said, "that was never addressed over the boom years."

Developer of affordable housing in Largo wants to build more apartments 02/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 21, 2009 2:15pm]

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