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Lealman public housing complex to start renovations

The French Villas at 6835 54th Ave. N will become the Landings at Cross Bayou after a $23.4 million renovation.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times (2001)

The French Villas at 6835 54th Ave. N will become the Landings at Cross Bayou after a $23.4 million renovation.

LEALMAN — French Villas, an aging public housing complex, is slated for a multimillion-dollar makeover and a new name.

The $23.4 million renovation is scheduled to begin in November or December and to be completed toward the end of February 2015. The new name will be the Landings at Cross Bayou.

The renovation is a joint project of the Pinellas County Housing Authority, which owns the property at 6835 54th Ave. N, and Norstar Development USA. It will be funded by tax credits given to Raymond James for the investment, said Paula Rhodes, a Norstar development director.

Built in 1973, French Villas is a two-story, 185-unit complex in the western portion of unincorporated Lealman. Lealman is located generally between Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg and lies on either side of Kenneth City. The community houses a Head Start program.

The housing authority used federal stimulus dollars in 2009 to replace the windows and doors. Those will remain after the renovation, but not much else will. Plans are not only to gut the apartments but to redesign them so the layout is more open and modern. The complex's sewer system is also due for replacement.

"What we're dealing with is a completely obsolete sewer system crumbling," Rhodes said. "The whole thing has got to be replaced."

Tenants will have to vacate by late summer, she said. They'll be given vouchers and referrals to complexes that provide Section 8 housing for low-income renters.

"They're all thrilled to pieces" at the prospect that the complex will be redone, Rhodes said.

Although the property will have to be vacated so the sewer lines can be repaired, plans are to stagger the completion. Some buildings will likely be habitable by early fall 2014 with final completion in early 2015.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Lealman public housing complex to start renovations 07/02/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 4:04pm]

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