Nearly six years ago, bulldozers demolished the old Redding Gardens public housing project several years after the last low-income residents had been given vouchers to move elsewhere.
The 4.73-acre site at 400 Locust Avenue sat vacant since then, but that will start to change Wednesday when work begins on the new Georgetown Square senior living apartments.
The Sanford Housing Authority, in partnership with multifamily developer Gardner Capital Inc., is building the four-story, 90-unit apartment complex, which will be restricted to tenants age 62 and older.
Construction on the $14.8 million project will take an estimated 16 to 18 months, according to Ayub Fleming, interim executive director of the Sanford Housing Authority. Fleming and the other workers in Sanford are employees of the Orlando Housing Authority.
Redding Gardens was the first of six Sanford public housing projects that were razed between 2013 and 2015. The complexes were in such poor repair, with leaking roofs and windows, water damage and mold, that authorities decided it would be too expensive to fix them. Now, the first of the complexes to be replaced is finally coming to fruition.
"This is so exciting for the community because this is the first development to come back and we really are excited about it," Vivian Bryant, CEO of the Orlando Housing Authority, told GrowthSpotter. "It's been a lot of hard work and this is just the beginning."
The reason it took nearly six years to rebuild was the inability of the housing authority to get financing through federal and state tax credits for affordable housing. Bryant said housing authorities around the state must compete for the tax credits, which give developers tax breaks in return for building housing at a lower cost.
"We have to tailor (an application) to what the state of Florida has to come up with or whatever funding source we can find," Bryant said. "We find ourselves chasing financing."
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently awarded the Sanford Housing Authority and city of Sanford a $500,000 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant. The money will be used to support a 24-month planning process for the historic Goldsboro neighborhood in Sanford.
The ultimate goal is to redevelop the five vacant Housing Authority sites in the neighborhood: William Clark Court, Castle Brewer Court, Lake Monroe Terrace, Cowan Moughton Terrace and Edward Higgins Terrace. The plan is also to identify programs to improve housing in the neighborhood.
Developer Gardner Capital held neighborhood meetings to get opinions from residents about how the Georgetown Square project should be built. Bryant said she wants the same collaborative effort applied in Goldsboro.
"That (Georgetown Square) plan had a lot of neighborhood input and it's a blueprint for how the community would like to see the Goldsboro area developed," she said.
Bryant said it would take about 14,000 new apartment units to close the widening deficit of available affordable housing in Central Florida. The Trump administration's tax reform package, which took effect in January 2018, gave developers tax breaks which, Bryant said, made affordable housing tax credits less desirable.