Housing Authority makes bid for funding Purpose Build Communities Southside apartments

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

A Southside housing redevelopment project could move closer to a start-up date if the Tallahassee Housing Authority could secure funding from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

The agency, which is Shepparding revamping of Orange Avenue Apartments, has submitted two bids for funding consideration, said Brenda Williams, executive director of the Housing Authority. The bid will be presented Oct. 23 and Oct. 25, she said, adding that only one is likely to be granted.

Brenda Williams, director Tallahassee Housing

The project, however, is being driven by Purpose Build Communities, a non-profit organization that is taking a holistic approach to changing run-down communities across the country. The South City Foundation also is behind the project and is responsible for assisting with fund-raising.

The Purpose Build Communities approach was presented to the Housing Authority and South City Foundation by County Commissioner Nick Maddox, who researched the organization extensively. Purpose Build Communities started with the backing of philanthropist Tom Cousins in 1995 in Atlanta.

State representative Loranne Ausley, co-chair of the South City Foundation, said the Purpose Build Communities concept is a perfect fit for residents of the Orange Avenue Apartments. Unemployment and poverty is high among residents.

“The bottom line is we know that the starting line is not the same for everyone in our community,” Ausley said at a recent pres conference. “Place matters to how well we live and how well our children live.

“Poverty and place are inextricably connected. We know that children who grow up I poverty have different outcomes from those who in healthy communities. Most of us are defined by the neighborhood that we live in and that’s why we are here today to stand behind this effort.”

The first project by Purpose Build Communities was East Meadows Lake in Atlanta and the organization has since gained national backing from investors like Warren Buffett. The Tallahassee project will become the second in Florida, with the first being in Orlando.

The master plan for Tallahassee was drawn up by Atlanta-based builders Columbia Residential. They have been contracted by the Housing Authority to build 390 units to replace 200 on 29 acres.

Getting the necessary tax-credit funding from the state’s financial corporation isn’t a slam-dunk, though. Tallahassee will be competing with several other small and mid-size counties in a lottery. This is the second time that the Housing Authority is submitting a bid since its unsuccessful effort last December.

“We just have to keep applying until we get an award,” Williams said.

A Purpose Build Communities project in Avondale Meadows in Indianapolis features 70,000 square foot multi-use health and wellness center.
Photo by Purpose Build Communities

The Housing Authority is asking for just over $16 million to start up the first phase that will cost $22 million. The entire project is estimated to be just over $90 million.

“I’m optimistic that we are going to eventually get an award so that we can start the project,” Williams said. “I’m hoping that our time will come this year. It’s a wonderful project. We just have to compete until we get an award. We are going to stay the course.”

Communities seeing tax credit dollars get three tries each year to win the lottery. Williams said her optimism in part comes from the City Commission committing $1 million to the project, which is essential to being considered for tax-credit funds. Additional funding will come from the South City Foundation, the Community Redevelopment Agency and Leon County.

With affordable and workforce housing being a city priority, getting behind the Purpose Build Communities Southside project was easy, said Mayor John Dailey.

If nothing else, the holistic approach makes the idea worth supporting, he said.

“In our community, it directly involves the city, the county and the school board,” Dailey said. “I’m proud that all three governments are working together to bring this initiative to fruition.

“We believe in this project and we are dedicating funding.”