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Rezoning sought for proposed apartment complex

While county officials would rather see more single-family homes here, they are negotiating with a developer who wants to bring in more apartments.

Creative Choice Homes is pitching a plan to build 132 apartments that would rent for $500 to $700 in a complex just west of 15th Street between 122nd and 124th avenues.

For that to happen, the Palm Beach company must convince Hillsborough County officials to rezone the land from residential to planned development.

It hasn't been easy.

The county's Planning and Growth Management department, which advises the zoning hearing master, has outlined a redevelopment plan for this largely low-income area that calls for more home ownership and fewer low-cost rentals.

"We really didn't want a new slew of apartments," said Mike Callahan, a planner involved in the redevelopment. But "they were very amenable to all our suggestions, which were significant, actually."

Creative Choice included some of those concessions in its application for planned development status.

The company says it will not build a wall around the 8.5-acre complex, because that would go against planners' desires for a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.

The complex would have a walking and jogging path along its perimeter. It also would feature a swimming pool, gym and computer lab.

Most of the apartments would be two-bedroom, with rents pegged to the area's median income, said Ron Roan, vice president of Creative Choice. He estimated they would range from $500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment to $700 for a three-bedroom.

The University area is a good fit for Creative Homes, which mostly builds apartment complexes, Roan said. In addition to South Florida, the company has projects in Gainesville and Bartow.

A county hearing master is reviewing the application and will make a recommendation to the County Commission by Feb. 3. The ultimate decision rests with the board.

If Creative Homes wins its rezoning, it may then seek low-cost financing from the state's housing finance authority. The builder also would get break on impact fees, because the land is in a federal enterprise zone. It would not have to compensate the county or city for road, stormwater and water system improvements.

The complex would occupy a piece of the 22nd Street Corridor, an area county officials have earmarked for redevelopment as early as next year.

The county wants to increase single-family home ownership to make residents feel more invested in the community. But there is little officials can do to stop apartment developers, Callahan said. Much of the area was zoned years ago for high-density development.

"Our hope is to come in and provide quality housing with a design and complex that will fit in as the area gets revitalized," Roan said.

_ Josh Zimmer covers University North, Keystone, Odessa and Citrus Park. He can be reached at or 269-5314.