ST. PETERSBURG — Michael Lundy led the crowd through a stroll down memory lane.
In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president of the United States, and St. Petersburg broke ground on its first public housing complex: Jordan Park, named after a Black businessman who donated the 24 acres. By 1941, 446 dwellings were built, including Craftsman-style bungalows with iconic front porches.
Fast forward to 2017, when the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, where Lundy now serves as CEO, acquired the land. There came a few “bumps in the road,” he said. City leaders replaced five of the agency’s seven-member governing board, and its chief executive officer was fired in 2019 following revelations of financial irregularities. The tumult would result in delays for Jordan Park.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a long time coming,” Lundy said. “Change is in the air.”
On Friday, Lundy, as well as Mayor Ken Welch, members of the St. Petersburg City Council and the housing authority’s governing board, plus 31-year Jordan Park resident Delores Fletcher, 70, dug shiny shovels into dirt to commemorate the start of Jordan Park’s redevelopment. It’s a $93 million project that will raze the historic bungalows to build a 60-unit, three-story senior housing complex and includes renovations to 200 townhome apartments.
The St. Petersburg Housing Authority will accept pre-applications for its waiting list at 8 a.m. on Feb. 7 through 5 p.m. February 10. Applicants must have income that does not exceed 60 percent of the average median income. For a family of four, that’s $44,280.
Those who previously lived in Jordan Park get first priority. James Dates, the housing authority’s board chairperson, told the Tampa Bay Times that a “very high percentage” of seniors wanted to move back into a unit in the project in 2019. Half of the family units are still occupied in the complex, and Dates said about half plan on returning.
“Their story is tied to the community,” Dates said. “Their children are in school, they’ve got all these things going that make them want to return to their neighborhood.”
Dates grew up in public housing. “And what we’re about to embark on in Jordan Park is nothing like I grew up in, thank God.”
Welch, whose administration is making affordable housing a priority, said Jordan Park was a celebration of real progress in St. Petersburg. His deputy mayor, Stephanie Owens, previously served as a housing authority board commissioner. He described Jordan Park as “a modern community built to empower families, not just house them.
“As we move forward, we cannot leave behind those who have long called St. Petersburg home,” he said. “Too many times in our history, we have seen communities of color displaced and scattered in the name of progress. That will not be the case for the residents of Jordan Park.”
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Housing commissioner Terri Lipsey Scott and City Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman recalled the “sometimes long and lonely journey” and late night calls. County commissioner Rene Flowers, who was raised in Jordan Park, recalled what it was like to grow up in the neighborhood.
“I’m not ashamed of being a product of Jordan Park,” she said. “Whatever we need to do to make sure that people continue to have safe, clean, affordable housing.
“There are so many wonderful stories that reside right here in these units now and that resided before.”
Housing commissioner Jerrilyn Evans recalled promising residents that the project would be completed after it was drawn out because of the Housing Authority turmoil.
“We did that, we succeeded,” she said to cheers. “We’re no longer just dreaming. It’s a reality.”