Lynn Hatter, WFSU
Plans to tear down and re-build the Orange Avenue Apartment complex are finally moving forward with demolition set to begin as soon as April 2021.
The city has been working to redevelop the public housing site for three years and financing for Phase 1 is now in place. It’s expected to cost around $26 million. The number of subsidized units will not be reduced, says the developer. Residents and local activists have expressed concerns about the potential for gentrification.
“There are 200 housing units that currently exist on the entire site. When we complete this redevelopment…we will have to produce those 200 units of subsidized units and that is in our plan,” said Ray Kuniansky, the Chief Development Officer for Columbia Residential, the property management and development firm that is handling the project.
The renovation is expected to be done in three-to-four phases in order to reduce the number of people who will have to move elsewhere. The first buildings are slated to be complete in 2022.
The redevelopment is coming with efforts to improve educational and health outcomes for residents through a partnership with Purpose Built Communities.
“It understands it’s not enough to address one component. You can’t go in and make the housing better, or make sure everyone has access to a health clinic. It really has to be comprehensive…really holistic,” said Whole Child Leon’s Courtney Atkins.
The partnership with Purpose Built was solidified last year after negotiations with the Leon County School District, the South City Foundation, Whole Child Leon, and the city and county commissions.
Orange Avenue Apartments was built in the early 1970’s and is nearly 50 years old. The Tallahassee Housing Authority is now applying for funding for the next phase of redevelopment.