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$24M affordable housing complexes slated for Mercy Drive sites

The developer is asking the City of Orlando for a height variance to build apartments at 1014 Mercy Dr. The waiver would allow the firm to build more affordable housing units on the narrow strip of land.
The developer is asking the City of Orlando for a height variance to build apartments at 1014 Mercy Dr. The waiver would allow the firm to build more affordable housing units on the narrow strip of land.(Powell Studio Architecture)

The Tampa developer who had the winning bid for a pair of city-owned lots on Mercy Drive has filed plans for 166 units of modern, affordable housing valued at $24 million.

Shawn Wilson, president and CEO of Blue Sky Communities, credited the city with having the vision to acquire the properties in 2015 from Fannie Mae and looking for creative redevelopment partners. The city demolished the 1950′s-era apartments on site to offer a clean slate to prospective buyers.

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“The City of Orlando is just really forward-thinking and have their act together when it comes to finding creative solutions for affordable housing,” he said.

Tampa-based Blue Sky Communities won the competitive bidding process for the city-owned sites on Mercy Drive. The developer secured funding assistance from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
Tampa-based Blue Sky Communities won the competitive bidding process for the city-owned sites on Mercy Drive. The developer secured funding assistance from the Sadowski Affordable Housing Trust Fund.(Powell Studio Architecture)

Blue Sky, which specializes in affordable multifamily housing, won the competitive bidding process in 2018. The firm is seeking master plan approval with a conditional use from the city to allow it to build a pair of apartment buildings on the “Fairlawn Village South” property at 1014 Mercy Dr.

By increasing the height of one building to 4 stories, the developer can offer 68 apartments on the narrow strip of land while providing a playground between the residential buildings and stormwater retention. The complex would consist of two-bedroom (912 square feet) and three-bedroom units (1,085 square feet) geared toward working families.

At Fairlawn Village North, Blue Sky will construct 48 units, of which 20 will offer permanent supportive housing for families transitioning from homelessness.

Early insight on the location, public investment thus far and what the city wants in a compelling development bid.

“We’ll have a full-time case manager on site who deals with those 20 units,” Wilson said. “We’ll also have an extra meeting room in the clubhouse where they can receive training.”

The development plan includes a fitness room, laundry center and playground – but no pool. The property is right next door to the city’s Northwest Neighborhood Center, which has a public pool, tennis and basketball courts and computer labs.

The buildings, designed by Powell Studio Architecture, are similar to two Blue Sky projects in Clermont, one of which breaks ground in a few weeks. Powell customized the latest design to match Orlando building codes and different market needs.

“This is our third project with Powell,” Wilson said. “We take a lot of pride in good design."

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The rest of the development team includes Civil Site Engineering, Inc. and Dark Moss landscape design.

Wilson chairs the Coalition of Affordable Housing Partners of Florida. He anticipates a start date in early July with delivery about a year later. Construction will commence on both sites simultaneously.

Get the details on a new 70-unit senior living project coming to Clermont that could help put a dent in the county's affordable housing need

These are the last two of seven properties acquired from Fannie Mae in the Mercy Drive and Washington Shores neighborhoods to be redeveloped. Since then, five of those have been sold and are in varied stages of affordable housing redevelopment, including LIFT Orlando’s Pendana at West Lakes (200-unit Phase 1), Ability Housing’s Village on Mercy where a groundbreaking was held in early April (180 units, with half reserved for the homeless), and a 58-unit property being thoroughly renovated by The Hope Church.

Earlier this year the city selected selected Hannibal Square Community Land Trust as the development partner for a nearly-5-acre site on Orange Center Boulevard across from the Pendana senior housing community. The Winter Park non-profit organization will build a mix of fee-simple townhomes, apartments and commercial uses on the property.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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