They came to Bay Oaks Apartments for many reasons.
It offered an affordable and safe place to live as a single woman. The area was zoned for top-flight public schools, but was still priced within reach on a graduate student’s salary. It seemed like a good place for a newly married couple to start their life together.
However, these South Tampa residents may have to relocateMiami-based Related Group is planning to replace the apartments overlooking Bayshore Boulevard with a five-acre residential development, in an area where housing options for middle- and working-class families has steadily shrunk.
The new condominiums are slated to range in price from $1.7 million to $5 million. Bay Oaks residences charge $1,000 for a studio apartment, $1,150 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,450 for a two-bedroom apartment, Related senior vice president Mike Hammon said.
“I cannot imagine that one person here is going to be able to afford a $1.7 million condo,” said Jodi Johnson, who has lived in Bay Oaks for about two years.
The 36-year-old University of South Florida professor lives with his wife, Stephanie Harper, and two step-kids, who are ages 11 and 8. Johnson and Harper first met while in graduate school in Louisiana. About three years ago, Harper moved to Bay Oaks as she came to Tampa to pursue a doctoral degree in literature at the University of South Florida.
“Finding places that are affordable on a graduate student’s stipend is tough,” she said.
Harper knew if she moved into Bay Oaks, her kids would be able to attend Roosevelt Elementary School, which is known as one of the most coveted schools in the district.
“The kids have just absolutely thrived there,” Harper said. She’s worried that her kids may have to eventually switch to schools far away from their friends if the family has to move out of the area.
As rent prices have climbed in South Tampa, Johnson said he’s frustrated with the new development plans.
“It’s a quality of life issue for us,” Johnson said.
Related Group said residents in nine of Bay Oaks’ 12 apartment buildings will be able to sign leases until late 2021, while the other three buildings , north of Santiago Street, will be available for at least four years.
Hammon said Related Group is working with the Tampa Housing Authority in order to “develop both affordable and market-rate apartments at West River Tampa” north of downtown. It also plans to work with Bay Oaks residents to help them relocate within Related Group projects and offer them incentives, such as waived application and administrative fees, as well as no additional deposits.
Bay Oaks rents cost more than the government-defined affordable rate for those with Hillsborough County’s average median income, the Related Group said. The company added that the new development will generate $2 million in property taxes each year.
Related Group said it has also contacted “more than 20 associations, organizations and businesses in the area” to go over its plans.
Still, for many Bay Oaks residents, the proposed development came as a shock. There have been signs posted around the buildings, announcing a proposed rezoningof the property. but many residents said they’ve relied on word of mouth for information.
“Nobody ever told us that they were shutting this down,” said Clint Shultz. The 39-year-old moved to Bay Oaks with his husband, Rubens Moura, at the end of December.
It’s Shultz’s and Moura’s first apartment together as a married couple.
“We love the community here,” said Moura, who works in communications. “People are very friendly and the price is amazing.”
Hammon said people should not be surprised by the new development, as it has been in the news several times and he said the complex’s administration sent a notice to residents about the changes. The company launched a website with information about the development in February and said property management has alerted people as they signed and renewed leases.
Even so, not all residents knew about the changes. Cody Petro, who has lived at Bay Oaks for three years, recently renewed his lease and was not aware of plans to replace the complex until asked about it by a Tampa Bay Times reporter. The 28-year-old analyst has seen more and more new developments come to the area over the years.
“I figured it was just a matter of time,” he said.
Katie Billi, 49, felt a little disappointed about the news, but said she’s also not sure where she’ll want to live for work in a year. Now an account manager at a forensics company, Billi first moved to Largo in August and then came to Bay Oaks in Tampa in February. Moving from Montana, she was looking for a change of pace and had several friends in Tampa. Bay Oaks seemed like a safe place for a single woman like her to live.
“The cost was very reasonable and very similar or even less than some of the new apartments going in in south Tampa,” Billi said. “It kind of felt like it’s the last of affordable living on Bayshore.”