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Grant falls through to redo Lacoochee housing project

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LACOOCHEE — Residents of Cypress Villas will have to wait at least another year after an application for millions in federal dollars to replace the aging housing complex fell through.

County officials said they learned a couple of weeks ago that their grant request did not make the list of approved projects.

But they said they are hopeful about next year, given efforts so far to redevelop the area and the fact that the application is completed.

"We're already ahead of the game," community development manager George Romagnoli said.

At $15 million, the federal grant would have represented the largest single investment ever in Lacoochee.

Pasco officials wanted the funds — coupled with a $4 million local match — to knock down and replace Cypress Villas I and II, a public housing project built in the 1970s.

They planned to replace the complex's 39 apartments with 56 units in 28 duplexes designed to emulate a small Old Florida village.

Officials also planned to use some of the money to renovate the nearby Cypress Farms and Cypress Manor housing projects.

Officials say they're hopeful about next year because Pasco has already been awarded a $300,000 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant.

That grant can open the door to a larger Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant.

In a March 18 letter to Cypress Villas residents, senior community development specialist Michele Miller expressed her disappointment for the setback but also her hope for future dollars.

She called the denial "a temporary obstacle for us to overcome" and reiterated the county's and the housing authority's support for residents of the Lacoochee, Trilby and Trilacoochee neighborhoods.

The effort to win a Choice Neighborhoods grant comes after a flurry of activity in recent years in Lacoochee-Trilby, the county's poorest neighborhood.

A new Boys and Girls Club is poised to open next month and the state is in the midst of a $6.9 million repaving of U.S. 301 between Mosstown Road and Pioneer Museum Road.

And last fall, Pasco commissioners designated the Lacoochee-Trilby area a tax increment financing district in order to raise funds for infrastructure and facade improvements.

Sheriff's Cpl. David Hink, chairman of the neighborhood group — the Lacoochee-Trilby-Trilacoochee Steering Committee — said he was disappointed but undaunted that the grant fell through.

"It was my understanding you usually don't get it the first time. It's one of those things you have to keep applying for," he said.

Hink, who is part of the county's officer friendly program, maintains an office at Cypress Villas I. He said residents there try their best to keep up with maintenance, but the units' condition and age make that effort a continual challenge.

"Things get repaired when they should be replaced," he said.

Richard Riley, former chairman of the LTT steering committee, was also optimistic about eventually winning the grant. "Yes we are disappointed but we are not disheartened," he said. "We knew there was a chance, and it would have been great if we could have received it this time around. But I'm anticipating we will apply again and we will have a better chance next year."

Rich Shopes can be reached at rshopes@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

Grant falls through to redo Lacoochee housing project 04/01/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 11:37am]

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